Police in Richmond, Virginia, had to act quickly after a man was bitten by his deadly pet snake and needed a rare anti-venom treatment.
Virginia State Police said they were called by the Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department to deliver an anti-venom treatment from the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center after a man was bitten by his pet African Pit Viper — one of the deadliest snakes in the world.
The man said the pit viper, also known as the Gaboon Viper, bit him during the night.
“The concern is with these snakes that are not endemic to our area — are not native to our area — is if these patients require treatment with anti-venom, is trying to locate the anti-venom and then trying to get it to the health care facility,” said Natasha Tobarran with the Virginia Poison Center.
Police say that the VCU hospital had already given the man a dose of anti-venom from the Smithsonian National Zoo in D.C., but it wasn’t enough. Officials said he needed another dose or he would die.
A state police sergeant received a batch of about three dozen anti-venom treatments from a Virginia Aquarium employee and hurriedly transported it back to Richmond.
“The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center provided 35 doses of anti-venom for emergency transport by state police to the VCU Medical Center,” an aquarium spokesperson told WAVY TV 10.
She said that anti-venom, a “cytotoxic” anti-venom treatment called SAIMR, is usually kept on hand at zoos and aquariums that care for exotic, non-native species.
The treatment prevents the venom from destroying cells and tissue.
Dr. Michelle Troendle, a clinical toxicologist at the Virginia Poison Center, said the venom is difficult to make. In addition, the type of anti-venom necessary for non-native snake bites can be hard to find.
“More likely than not, the anti-venom is going to have to come from a zoo or an aquarium,” Dr. Troendle said. “Those aren’t going to be kept at the hospital because it’s not cost-efficient. There are not enough cases to justify carrying those.”
After receiving the batch, emergency personnel immediately administered the treatment to the man, who is recovering.
Richmond Animal Control told 13NewsNow that it is currently legal in the state to own exotic animals like an African Pit Viper.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, these snakes can grow up to seven feet in length and weigh up to 18 pounds. They are typically docile, but their bite is extremely venomous, and their two-inch fangs are longer than most venomous snakes.