Venomous Snakes and Snake Bite Accidents in Panama*
Herbert C. Clark
Director, Gorgas Memorial Laboratory, Panama, Republica de Panama
Since 1929, in association with Dr. Thomas Barbour of Harvard and other workers, I have been carrying out a census of snakes in the valleys of the Tuira, Chagres and Santa Maria rivers of Panama and on the plains east of Panama City. In these areas, a total catch of 3,457 snakes was made from January, 1929 to September, 1934. Of this number, 836 or 24.1 per cent were venomous snakes. During the capture of these snakes, no one was bitten.
According to this census, three species of Bothrops - fer de lance, hog nose viper, and horned palm viper are responsible for 83.6 per cent of hazardous snake bites. The victims of these bites can be treated with Bothropic antivenin. Other venomous snakes included in the catch were 31 bushmasters, 103 coral snakes and 3 sea snakes. The bushmaster and the coral snake rarely cause accidents, but if they do, specific antivenins are required.
Hospital and dispensary records in Panama seldom correctly reflect the true incidence of snake bite accidents for the following reasons:
The person who receives the bite is usually alone and is at a remote distance from medical assistance. No official report is rendered.
Many poisonous snake bite accidents are not followed by serious results. Most poisonous snakes are nocturnal in their habits, and most snake bite accidents occur in the daytime and are caused by a snake that is so full of food that it cannot escape the pedestrian's foot. Such a snake. . .