Snake Bites

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

In the United States, to see people petrified of snakes is almost comical:

Practically nobody dies from snakebites in America.  The chances are far higher of being hit by lightning.  The most deadly snakes in the US are still second-chance serpents, like rattlers or moccasins.  If a diamondback hits you, you’ll almost certainly live because you’ll probably get to a hospital and suffer through.  But if a cobra or other super-snake hits a villager, he’s likely finished.

There are about 216 types of snakes just in India, of which about 52 are venomous.  Nearly all the deaths are caused by “The Big Four”: Indian Cobra; Common Krait (the bed snake); Russell’s Viper (which Indians call “Daboia”—the lurker); and the Saw Scaled Viper, a vicious little snake that some people consider the most deadly in the world.

There are many lists for the “most dangerous” or “most venomous” snakes in the world.  The snakes that count most are not the ones with the most toxic juices, or the most dangerous bites, but the ones who actually fill the most graves.

The deadly Krait likes to come inside homes where it often slithers in bed with people.  Its bite is so painless that many victims do not realize they have been envenomated.  Some Indians believe the Krait just licks people.  Victims are found dead in their beds, or wake up and die.

Cobras are not much better; they also like to move into people’s homes to chase rats.  Getting bitten by a cobra is like being blasted by a shotgun.  There was once a practice of putting cobra venom inside musket balls and arrowheads, though I have no idea if this still occurs.

In India alone, it is believed that snakes kill up to 50,000 people per year.

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