Dubinsky, 1.1996. Canadian
Family Physician 42 (11) 2207-2211.
(Kurecki BA. 1987. 25
(Prior and Weatherhead,
(Greene and Campbell, 1992)
Massasauga bites with envenomation (a
bite with venom injected) are relatively rare when proper precautions
are being taken, such as the avoidance of risky activities.
Rattlesnakes use their venom to aid in
capturing their prey. The venom is a
specialized digestive enzyme, which disrupts blood flow and prevents
blood clotting. It is injected through the snake’s retractable hollow
fangs. Although people can become ill if envenomated, the purpose of
the venom is to kill small prey – not humans.
It is noteworthy that venom is not
always injected when a rattlesnake bites. An estimated 25% of
snakebites do not result in envenomation, and therefore no anti-venom
is required.2 If the strike or bite is defensive in nature,
and the snake does not intend to eat the victim, the snake may not
even inject venom into the bite victim. Most individuals who are
bitten are discharged from the hospital within three days, and show no
permanent ill effects. Bites from massasaugas are both uncommon and
rarely life threatening in humans;3 a full recovery is the
- There have only been two fatalities in
Ontario linked to snakebite, and in both cases, the victims did not
receive appropriate or timely medical treatment. In Ontario, there
have been no snake-bite fatalities in almost 40 years.
- Keep the danger of a snakebite in
perspective. Every year, people die from bee stings, encounters with
bears, or from driving into deer on roadways. No one dies from a
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