A tourist has been killed by a snake bite in Australia, dying days after being bitten by the venomous reptile.
The 25-year-old French backpacker was bitten by the snake, possibly a brown snake, while harvesting grain in the town of Nullawil in Australia, around 200 miles northwest of Melbourne. The unfortunate traveler was airlifted to a hospital in Melbourne after being found unresponsive on October 24, having suffered from cardiac arrest. He died two days later after his life support was switched off, local news ABC Australia said.
In the U.S., around 8,000 people are bitten by snakes every year, of which about five die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The exact species of snake involved in the attack is unconfirmed, but bite marks were found on the man’s ankle, and the culprit is suspected to be a brown snake. These reptiles, also known as Eastern browns, are native to eastern and southern Australia, and can grow to around 7 feet long.
“The Eastern brown snake is one of the world’s most venomous snakes, in the top 10, and is responsible for at least two-thirds of snake bites in Australia annually,” Damian Michael, a herpetologist and senior research fellow in ecology at Charles Sturt University in Australia, told Newsweek.
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These snakes have very potent venom, and are responsible for the most deaths by snakebite of any other species in Australia. Their venom contains several coagulating toxins, causing victims to bleed internally, leading to seizures and even cardiac arrest, and can kill within hours of the bite.
“Because their venom evolved to immobilize rats or mice, their primary prey, which are mammals like us, it means their venom targets molecules and receptors in our bodies, too,” Christina N. Zdenek, a postdoctoral fellow at the Venom Evolution Lab at The University of Queensland, Australia, told Newsweek.
“For adult humans, their venom renders the blood incoagulable, resulting in internal bleeding, possible organ failure, and occasionally cerebral hemorrhage. In children, who have much smaller blood volume, the venom is relatively more concentrated and thus can result in stroke and subsequent brain damage. However, their venom potency only matters of course if you are bitten and envenomated. Dry bites do occur, but first aid must be applied regardless because medical staff will determine if you were envenomated.”
Eastern brown snakes often find themselves in human settlements, which can lead to bites if the snakes are disturbed. Brown snakes are most active during the spring months, which it currently is in Australia. They very rarely attack unprovoked, and only if they feel threatened.
“Snakes, by default, are cowards. They’ll do whatever they can to avoid detection, avoid encounters, and keep their distance from us,” Zdenek said.
“On occasion, conflict with humans does occur. When they do, the best principle is to simply ‘give snakes space’. Brown snakes are very defensive and prefer their personal space.
“When a massive predator, such as a human, comes close to them, they demand their space by adopting an S-shape in the air. This doesn’t mean they will strike; this pose is intended to intimidate the predator to convince it to back away, which is what any member of the general public should do when see that,” Zdenek added.
Whether the man was bitten by the snake while working at the grain receival or elsewhere has not yet been confirmed, and his exact cause of death is yet to be revealed officially, according to the Victoria Police.