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By Greg Clark
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 13, 1997

Millions can be saved if rattlers are left untouched, official says

Arizona could save $2.4 million a year if people would stop playing with rattlesnakes, a poison control official said.

"Fifty to 70 percent of snake bites were preventable because the victims were trying to do something to the snake when they got bit," said Jude McNally, assistant director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.

The average cost for treatment of a rattlesnake bite is $16,000, McNally said.

The Poison Center, which is operated by the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy and Toxicology, consulted on over 300 poisonous snake-bite cases last year, he said.

Of those, at least 200 occurred in areas of Arizona outside Maricopa County.

Those bites could all be avoided if people did not provoke snakes by trying to capture or kill them, McNally explained.

The best action to take if a person finds a rattlesnake is to leave it alone, McNally said. Rattlesnakes are not aggressive and they will go away.

"The goal of the Poison Center is first to treat people, and second to educate and find recommendations that will keep people safe," McNally said. "Safety is going to come more by understanding and education than anything else."

Any rattlesnake bite is potentially life-threatening, but the severity of reaction can vary greatly among individuals, he said.

Effects can range from localized swelling and tissue destruction to very serious breakdown of the body's blood-clotting system.

The toxic effects can be counteracted by an anti-venin, but 85 percent of patients can have adverse allergic reaction to the antivenin, McNally said.

Because of the risks of both snake venom and anti-venin, a patient must be monitored a minimum of 12 hours in an emergency medical facility.

If a snake is in an area where it may threaten children or pets, McNally said, the best thing to do is call Rural Metro Fire Department or Pima County Animal Control.

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