Camper bitten by copperhead still recovering; toxicity expert says bites more common than many people think

The Street camper bitten Monday by a copperhead snake, one of the two venomous species in Maryland, is set to go home from the hospital soon, the camp's executive director said.

"The camper is still in stable condition in the hospital and is expected to be released sometime today," Jennifer Silber, executive director of Camp Moshava, said via e-mail Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, state poison control official said bites from venomous snakes are much more common than the estimate posted on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.

Bruce Anderson, director of the Maryland Poison Control Center at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, said Wednesday he recorded roughly one incident of a copperhead snake bite each year in Harford County since 2009, and two in 2012.

"Unfortunately, the information on the DNR website about snake bite cases in Maryland isn't exactly correct," Anderson said. 

The DNR website states the Poison Control Center typically sees two to six such bites each year.

Anderson, however, said center generally hears about 20 to 35 copperhead bites each year, one or two timber rattlesnake bites and anywhere from five to 20 bites from unknown types of venomous snakes.

In the northern Harford County case from Monday night, an "older camper" was bitten on the toe by the snake and taken promptly to a local hospital, Silber said earlier.

She said the camp would be calling in an exterminator to do an inspection and making sure everyone follows DNR precautions like wearing closed-toe shoes and staying in lighted areas.

Scott Smith, a DNR ecologist, said the high rainfall could be driving them out. He also said increased development meant people were continuing to intrude on snake habitats.

Anderson agreed with that on Wednesday. He added that snakes are migrants and therefore could be anywhere, so he did not know for sure if there would be more or less of them in Harford.

"People are actually moving into the places where the snakes normally live," he said. "People are creating environments that snakes like. They are providing shelter and a source of food."

Nevertheless, snake bites from a copperhead "is not something that is a hugely common problem in Maryland," he said.

"In general, people do really well with copperhead venomations. The most serious effect that I am seeing is moderate," he said.

DNR officials and those at the Poison Control Center also agree a copperhead bite does pose a potentially serious health risk and should receive immediate medical attention. DNR's Smith said people should seek treatment for any kind of snake bite, venomous or not.

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