Occupational injuries with captive lance-headed vipers (Bothrops moojeni): experience from a snake farm in Brazil


correspondence Sérgio de A. Nishioka, Al. Sosthenes Guimarães 667, 38411–160 Uberlândia, MG, Brazil. E-mail: snishioka@triang.com.br


Summary We studied occupational injuries with captive lance-headed vipers (Bothrops moojeni) that occurred in a snake farm in south-eastern Brazil from February 1981 to May 1999. The risk of injury, taking into account 13 cases of snake-associated injuries (12 of them snake bites) was 2.73 per 10000 person-days of work, and 3.51 per 100000 venom extractions. Thirteen cases of injury occurred in seven workers, whereas 18 workers were never injured, suggesting that some individuals have a higher risk of injury than others perhaps due to lack of concentration or overconfidence. Eight episodes of occupational injuries occurring in four technicians, including a case of eye injury due to splashed venom during extraction, are reported. Assessment of whether envenoming occurred was facilitated by knowledge of the snake species and size, history of recent venom extraction and snake feeding, and examination of snake venom glands. Hypersensitivity reactions (anaphylaxis and serum sickness) to antivenom are a risk particularly to those workers who were bitten more than once and medicated previously. Antivenom therefore should not be administered to these individuals unless there is clear evidence that envenoming occurred or is likely to have occurred. Hypersensitivity to the venom is also a health concern for workers from snake farms.