Maryland Woman Bitten by Cobra; Assistant Curator Responds with Anti-Venom


GLORIA CAMPISI | | Thursday, January 28, 2010

It was a strange story from start to finish, but the Philadelphia Zoo helped steer things toward a happy ending. A woman told fire department emergency responders in Baltimore that she was getting into her car at a shopping-center parking lot Sunday night when she was bitten on the hand by a cobra, which she had picked up thinking it was a stick.

The woman, who officials didn't identify, apparently got the snake into a bag and brought it with her to a walk-in medical center, where it was isolated in a trash can, said Baltimore Fire Department spokeswoman Elise Amacost. Fire department personnel rushed the woman from the clinic to Johns Hopkins Hospital.

As the drama unfolded in Baltimore, Jason Bell, assistant curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Philadelphia Zoo, was watching football on TV at his home in suburban Philadelphia. An emergency phone call from Maryland Poison Control, which was searching for anti-venom through a Web site called the anti-venom index, propelled Bell out of his chair and into his office.

In a stroke of good fortune, the Philadelphia Zoo had anti-venom that would work for the bite of the cobra, a type called a "monocled cobra" from Southeast Asia, even though the zoo had no snakes of that kind at the zoo. It had the anti-venom for other cobras on display. Bell said he packed up 30 vials of the refrigerated anti-venom, and waiting Pennsylvania State Police rushed it by car to a halfway point where they turned over the vials to a Johns Hopkins ambulance crew.

They couldn't fly it by helicopter because of heavy rain on Sunday. Doctors had to use 10 vials of the anti-venom to bring the woman around, Bell said. The anti-venom used was made in South Africa and costs about $150 a vial, he said. Bell said the woman was lucky she was bitten on the finger and not closer to the heart, where bites can be deadly. The severity of the bite also depends on the amount of venom the snake injects and the general health of the victim.

Kim Hammond, a Baltimore-area veterinarian who helped search for anti-venom to save the woman, cast doubt on the parking-lot story, saying snakes, which are cold-blooded animals, cannot survive outdoors in cold weather. The woman told authorities she was not the snake's owner and apparently never explained why she would pick up a stick in a parking lot in the first place.

The snake eventually ended up warm and cozy in a local zoo.

Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Leadership and Professionalism, Cardiac and Circulation, Medical Emergencies, Patient Management

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS


Get JEMS in Your Inbox


Fire EMS Blogs

Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts


EMS Airway Clinic

Innovation & Progress

Follow in the footsteps of these inspirational leaders of EMS.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

New Item on Iowa Helicopter Helps Save Patient’s Life

Supply of blood recently added to LifeFlight helicopter.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Shooting Inside Pennsylvania Hospital

Early reports of one person dead in Darby hospital.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Anchorage Chief Proposes Shifting Fire, Medic Crews

Officials debate ways to reduce paramedic burnout.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Kansas City Woman Thanks EMTs Who Saved Her Life

CPR save highlights community awareness program
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >

More Product Videos >