Snake Bites Child Visiting Arizona Park Near Tucson

A snake bites a child visiting the Silverbell District Park and "Beware of Snake" signs are now posted throughout the park. The snake encounter occurred yesterday morning when the 4-year-old boy was walking on a park sidewalk near a playground with his mother and sister. A rattlesnake slithered onto the walkway and bit the child on his foot. The mother stated that the snake did not make a sound or a rattle before it stuck her son.

The boy's mother flagged down officers from the Marana police force and the boy was rushed to Banner University Medical Center Trauma Center for treatment. Today, the hospital reports that his condition is stable.

Park employees killed the snake and the Marana Police Department released a photo of the dead snake, minus its severed head. The snake was identified as a western diamondback rattlesnake and it was approximately two-years-old. This species is responsible for the second-highest number of snakebite fatalities in the U.S., second only to its southeastern cousin, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake.

western diamondback rattlesnake killed in Arizona
The dead western diamondback rattlesnake, Silverbell Park playground, and Marana Police Chief [Photo Credit: Marana municipality]"It was approximately a 2-year-old diamondback rattlesnake," said Marana police officer Chris Warren. "Younger snakes are known to be more poisonous, because they can't control the amount of venom they release."

The park is located between Tucson and Marana in southern Arizona. This area has been the scene of an increased number of rattlesnake sightings reported to authorities this year. In March, there were 15 reports in a single day.

Snake bites mostly occur between March and October in this area and these months are the declared "snake season." Speaking to the Arizona Daily Star, Keith Boesen, director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, says there are 150 to 160 rattlesnake bites reported every year in Arizona. He advises residents never to treat snake bites themselves, but to seek emergency medical care.

"No cutting, no sucking, no tourniquets — none of that. Just get to a hospital."
Rapid treatment is the key to surviving poisonous snake bites. And that treatment doesn't come cheap. Last month, an Oklahoma City woman was bitten by a copperhead while working in her garden. The bill for anti-venom alone was $200,000. A man bitten by a rattlesnake in California in July received a bill for $153,000.

The high cost is due to the fact that anti-venom medications are made by milking venom from live snakes. The treatments cannot be mass-produced. In addition, anti-venom has a short shelf life and stocks must constantly be replaced. Since the alternative to treatment is usually death, it's worth the price. The World Health Organization estimates that 20,000 people die worldwide from snake bites every year.

Milking venom from pit viper
Milking a pit viper to produce anti-venom medicine [Photo credit: Barry Rogge via CC BY 2.0]
[Intro photo from western diamondback rattlesnake caught in Arizona]