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An 18-year-old Safed resident was hospitalized in the Ziv Medical Center's intensive care unit on Wednesday, after being bitten by a viper, Israel's most dangerous species of snake.
The spring is the most active time for snakes here as toxins produced by glands are most plentiful and high grasses provide good hiding places for the reptiles. The Safed hospital said that every year, especially in the spring and summer, it receives about 30 snakebite cases, with approximately 70 percent of the cases treated in intensive care.
Dr. Yosef Ozeri, one of the doctors who treated the patient, said the teenager was fortunate, as he was bitten by a small viper rather than a large one and was immediately treated to an antidote supplied by the Health Ministry to all hospitals specifically for this purpose. It is essential, said the doctor, to treat snakebite victims immediately, as those who have not received immediate assistance have died or suffered damage to the liver, nerves and blood vessels.
The first signs of a viper snakebite are a sharp pain or burning sensation, swelling and redness on the skin. The toxins from the snake can lead to nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness and/or a change in mental state. Later signs include gastric bleeding, irregular heartbeat, kidney failure, cramps and even loss of consciousness.
Dr. Amar Hussein, head of the hospital's emergency medicine department, warned that those who go on hikes during the spring should be aware of snakes awakening from their winter slumber and if bitten, should remain calm, as stress increases the rate at which the toxin reaches the vital organs. It's also important, if possible, he said, to note the type of snake, or if it cannot be identified, at least be able to give a description of it so
doctors can know which antidote to prescribe.
There are 41 snake species in Israel, however only nine of them are poisonous, with the viper being the most dangerous. The most common type of viper has a triangular head, a brown V on its head and diamond shapes along its body. If you see a snake, back slowly away and try not to move suddenly as this may make the snake feel threatened.