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Antivenin shortage reported at Good Samaritan Hospital

A few tips for what to do if a bite occurs:

-Remain calm and reassure the victim.

-Remove all jewelry and watches from the affected area.

-Immobilize the limb that is bitten and keep it below the level of the heart.

-Decrease body activity as much as possible.

-Move victim to medical facility immediately.

Do not:

-Apply ice to the bite area.

-Make an incision of any kind.

-Use a constriction band or tourniquet.

-Administer alcohol or drugs.

-Use electric shock treatment.


Source: Arizona Herpetological Association Associated Press Aug. 15, 2001 12:00:00

There's a shortage of snakebite antivenin at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, the Phoenix area's only poison control center.

The center has 12 bottles of the snake bite serum left.

"Which might be enough to treat one patient," said Dr. Steven Curry, director of medical toxicology at Good Samaritan. "No one knows when (more) is going to be forthcoming."

The average snake bite victim needs between 12 and 20 doses.

Antivenin neutralizes toxins from venomous snakebites.

Good Samaritan can and will still treat snakebite victims, but without the antivenin, patients will suffer more pain and illness, require a longer hospital stay and possible need blood transfusions, Curry said.

"Most patients will live if they get to the hospital," Curry said.

About 70 patients a year are treated at Good Samaritan for snakebites. Most of them occur during the coming months of September and October when rattlesnakes increase their hunting activity before hibernation.

Curry said last week alone, five people were treated for snake bites.

The Pennsylvania-based Wyeth Ayerst Laboratories stopped producing antivenin in July 2000. Another company, Protherics, began making a snake bite serum after Wyeth's announcement. Protherics assured medical officials there would be enough of the product, Curry said.

But he said that hasn't been the case.

A hospital in California has shipped some antivenin to Good Samaritan, but Curry expects it to last only one week.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 16, 2001

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