Pennsylvania Rattlesnake Bite: Man Dies From Snake Bite At Rural Camp

A Pennsylvania rattlesnake bite killed a 39-year-old man while he was building a fire at a rural camp, making him the first person to die from a rattlesnake bite in the state in over 25 years.

Russell Davis, of Freedom in Beaver County, was camping with his girlfriend at Medix Run in Elk County, some 125 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when he decided to add wood to their camp fire at around midnight on Saturday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Davis didn’t realize that a predator was lurking behind him until it was too late and he felt the sting of the rattlesnake bite.

“He went running into the camp and told his girlfriend to take him to a hospital,” Mr. Myers said, recalling his interview with Davis’ girlfriend.

Myers said the couple immediately sped off to a local hospital. While en route, Davis started experiencing “severe breathing problems,” so the woman stopped at a local bar for help. An ambulance was called, and when the paramedics arrived, approximately 30 minutes later, they immediately started CPR, noting that Davis was already in “acute respiratory distress.”

According to Myers, Davis was then transported by a medical helicopter, which was originally headed to Penn Highlands Health Care in St. Marys, Elk County. Prior to being airlifted to the hospital, Davis was given an anti-venom treatment. However, Davis went into full “cardiac arrest” mid-flight, forcing the helicopter to stop at the ACMH Hospital in Kittanning, Armstrong County, where he was pronounced dead, before he could even receive treatment, at 5:23 a.m. Davis’ official cause of death was listed as an “anaphylactic reaction to a venomous snake bite.” Not autopsy was planned for Davis, Myers said.

According to Medline Plus, the symptoms of a rattlesnake bite include the following.

  • Bleeding
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Blurred vision
  • Eyelid drooping
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness
  • Pain at site of bite
  • Paralysis
  • Rapid pulse
  • Skin color changes
  • Swelling
  • Tingling
  • Tissue damage
  • Thirst
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Weak pulse

“People react differently to snake venom. I don’t know where on his body the bite was, or what other health conditions he might have had,” Ray Bamrick, of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, told CBS Pittsburgh.

Bamrick explained what to do if a person is bitten by a poisonous snake. Essentially, treatment is limited until the person reaches a medical facility to receive anti-venom. However, he says to make sure to position the bite location below the heart of the victim.

“You don’t use constriction bands or tourniquets. You don’t cut the wound and try to suck out the venom. … You want to notify EMS and get to a hospital,” he said. “It is estimated between 7,000 and 8,000 people across the country get bitten, with about five fatalities per year.”

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