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Woodland Park Zoo antivenin saves life of B.C. man bitten by venomous snake

Posted by Danielle Anthony-Goodwin on March 22nd, 2013

The life of a British Columbia resident bitten by a venomous viper was saved with help from antivenin supplied by Woodland Park Zoo.  This antivenin combined with fast action and cooperation between a poison control center and hospitals in Canada and the U.S.  saved the man’s life.

The 61-year-old Canadian man returned to Vancouver on Monday after unknowingly being bitten by a viper while on vacation in Costa Rica. Upon his return he was diagnosed with kidney failure, bleeding and swelling when he sought medical attention at Vancouver General Hospital.

Dr. Roy Purssell, from the B.C. Center for Disease Control (BCCDC) worked with a medical team to conclude that the man had been bitten by a venomous Fer-de-lance Bothrops asper, native to Central and South America.

After this diagnosis, the medical team contacted local Woodland Park Zoo and UW Medicine’s Harborview Medical Center on Tuesday afternoon.

Zoo curator, Mark Myers, then secured 20 vials of antivenin, kept at the zoo in case of emergencies, and arranged for its transport to Harborview. British Columbia Ambulance service arrive shortly thereafter to pick up the antivenin by air ambulance.

“Receiving the call for help was quite a harrowing experience,” noted Myers. “We knew that time was critical and we had to move fast if we wanted to help save this patient’s life. I was relieved to hear that he improved within minutes and that we played a life-saving role.”

According to Dr Purssell, the patients condition improved dramatically within minutes of being injected with the antivenin and his condition then stabilized a few hours later.

“Without the dedication of medical experts on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, and Woodland Park Zoo, this man may have succumbed to his injuries,” said Carol Swan, communications director with the BCCDC.

Photo courtesy of Woodland Park Zoo.

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