Antivenin flown in to poisonous snakebite victim in Grand Rapids

Posted at 7:26 PM, Aug 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-21 19:39:19-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The victim of a poisonous snakebite in Grand Rapids was treated with snake antivenin flown in specially from Kentucky as part of a medical emergency Friday.

Friday afternoon a medevac plane took off from Traverse City and landed at 3:33 p.m. at the airport in Lexington, Ky., where officials from the Kentucky Reptile Zoo were waiting with antivenin to be flown back to Grand Rapids. Antivenin is serum containing antibodies against specific poisons, especially those in the venom of snakes, spiders and scorpions.

The plane landed at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids at 5:03 p.m. Friday with the antivenin.

Kristen Wiley, curator at the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, which is located an hour east of Lexington in Slade, Ky., said the zoo was contacted by a Grand Rapids hospital “because they had a person who had been bitten by a bush viper from Africa (pictured).

“There is no specific antivenin for that kind of snake,” she said. “However, antivenin for a saw-scaled viper has been shown to have some effect on this bite, so that’s the antivenin we sent up there.”

Officials at Spectrum Health System in Grand Rapids would not say how the patient responded to the treatment.

“We have not heard anything (about if it worked or not),” said Wiley.

“We get calls like this several times a year,” she said. “We have a lot of antivenin for medical research here. In this case we were the closest supply.”

Bush vipers come in a variety of sizes and colors and are native to tropical sub-Saharan Africa. They live only in rainforests while in the wild.

Wiley said the poisonous snake was most likely a pet belonging to someone in West Michigan.

“We know almost certainly this was a snake that was held privately,” she said. “Not a zoo.”