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Ashes to eye: a skilled snake handler’s experience with ophthalmic envenomation

Williams, H. F., Moejes, K., Williams, J., Almeida, J. R. ORCID:, Savania, R., Senthilkumaran, S., Patel, K. and Vaiyapuri, S. ORCID: (2023) Ashes to eye: a skilled snake handler’s experience with ophthalmic envenomation. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 17 (4). e0011264. ISSN 1935-2735

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0011264


With the continued growth of human populations, rural urbanisation and habitat degradation are on the rise, resulting in the displacement of native wildlife and an increase in human-wildlife conflicts. The presence of human habitation and waste often attracts rodents and thereby, snakes, leading to increased snake sightings in homes. To address this problem, snake handlers, who are volunteers that remove and relocate snakes away from human development areas, are called upon. However, snake removal is a high-risk task that poses a risk of envenomation, particularly when dealing with spitting snakes. Several cobra species have the ability to spit venom. If the venom enters a person's eye, it can result in ophthalmic envenomation, which can have serious consequences for their eyesight. Therefore, snake handlers should take precautions and wear suitable eye protection and use appropriate tools to ensure their safety and that of the snake. In this case, an experienced snake handler was called to remove a spitting cobra, but they were ill-equipped. During the removal, the venom splashed on the handler's face, and some of it entered their eye, resulting in ophthalmic envenomation. The handler promptly irrigated their eye, but medical treatment was still necessary. This report highlights the risks and consequences of ophthalmic injury and the importance of wearing appropriate eye protection and taking due care when dealing with venomous species, particularly those that can spit venom. It serves as a reminder that accidents can happen at any time and experienced snake handlers are not exempted from the risks.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Biomedical Sciences
Life Sciences > School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy > School of Pharmacy > Division of Pharmacology
Life Sciences > School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy > School of Pharmacy > Pharmacy Practice Research Group
ID Code:111362
Publisher:Public Library of Science


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