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What happens when you get bitten by a Bamboo Pit Viper?

This originally appeared on our blog last year...but perhaps it is time to let people know again......Fortunately we have some brave souls who do not mind sharing their story - and pictures - so that we can understand better actually what happens after such a bite. This bite is from the most reported snake bite victims in hospitals in Hong Kong, around 30 a year, the Bamboo Pit Viper. And a big thank you to Steve Pheby for sharing.

This is how it all happens, (and I would point out that wearing shoes and long trousers goes a long way in avoiding snakebites)...

As Steve says, I was out walking my dog 3 doors down from my house last September just after getting off a long haul flight from London. Took the dog out for a walk here in Sai Kung and was on the main Tai Mong Tsai road, and it was dark so I did not notice the #$%^&@ that had come right up to me, and of course, i happened to be wearing flip flops when it bit.

I was walking on a clear pavement, not on a trail or anything and there was a bit of brush between my neighbours house and the street. My dog was on the lead and was alerted to something but I pulled her back as didn't see anything..

then I felt something scratch the top of my foot then it took a real pinch and sunk its teeth into me and felt like it was drilling in. I stepped back and looked down and saw a fully grown adult BPV slink away

I simply then walked home, got on the phone and dialed 999 for the ambulance. Felt not much at first but after 15 minutes the pain started it came in waves and got more intense, I tried to remain calm but when half the sai kung fire department came, along with the police and medics and all wanting to see my HKID it was hard not to get a bit frantic although I knew that I just needed the anti venom and all would be ok as no one has died for decades from a snake bite in HK

So, i have to ask, why did fire engines and police come for a snake bite? all wanting to see his ID? answers on a postcard please.....(it appears that they all have to answer an emergency call).

Now, this next bit is important....can you ID the snake that bit you with certainty??? a critical question for the medics. One medic has told me that should be in all the hospital admissions protocol, as its pictures and descriptions are so useful (full disclosure, i am co-author of that site)...on with the story....

"Got to TKO hospital and they kept asking me if I was certain it was a BPV and told them I was 110% certain, 2 asked me for more precise details of the snake which I described, red tint to tail, evil eyes, diamond head, bad attitude, scaley skin, then I told them the difference between that and the other green snake and they seemed satisfied to give me the anti venom".

"they had me hooked up to monitors for heart rate and blood pressure and they measured the swelling every 15 mins and marked with a black pen the progress of the swelling up my leg

They gave me 4 vials of AV, a load of anti-biotics. I couldnt walk for over 30 hours and had to use a bed pan. Pain remained for around 24 hours but pain killers did take it away

I hobbled after 30 hours then walked again another 12 hours later.


I was running again within 3 days and did a half marathon within 6 days after the bite. recovery is quick but it took around 5-6 weeks for the swelling to go fully down"

so we gather that Mr Pheby is a bit of a tough guy! but the story of an agonising bite, with a quick recovery - well a week - is good news and may provide hope for those who are ever unfortunate enough to be bitten.

also, hats off to the emergency services team, ambulance to the hospital, andthen speedy and effective treatment....with a cost of very, very little (lucky this was not in the USA steve!). But we do see that while Steve has learned to cover his feet, his legs remain tempting targets, and my advice is if you go hiking, then wear sturdy shoes and long pants, which will deter most bites.

for more education on snakes in Hong Kong see the aforementioned and the really excellent Hong Kong Snakes facebook page, which has probably done more than anyone to help people understand more about snakes in Hong Kong.


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