The condition of a two and a half year old boy bitten by a snake while playing on the balcony at home has improved and he will be moved from the intensive care unit of Makarios Hospital to the children’s ward within the day, director of paediatrics Avraam Elia at the hospital told Radio Active on Thursday.
The child was bitten on Tuesday when he tried to grab the snake which bit him on the left hand. He was taken to Nicosia Hospital and then transferred to the children’s intensive care unit at Makarios Hospital.
The child had swelling and was treated with anti snake venom. By Wednesday afternoon, the child’s condition had improved but he remained in the intensive care unit until Thursday.
Elias told the radio station that children should be supervised when playing and all areas of a house should be cleaned well — both inside and outside the house.
As regards snake bites, he said that the area of the snake bite should not be tied up nor should someone attempt to suck the poison from the wound. The most important thing is to take the patient to the closest hospital, after first elevating the affected limb.
Can snake bites kill?
Forestry Department officer and herpetologist Charis Nicolaou told Phileleftheros earlier this year that there is no recorded death, exclusively from a snake bite in the past 50 years in Cyprus.
However, there are cases of people with pre-existing health conditions who died after being bitten by a snake.
The only snake whose poison can be lethal to humans in Cyprus is the Cypriot blunt-nosed viper (fina). Despite having the ability to cause death, there is enough time for people bitten by a fina to go to the hospital and receive treatment before the poison takes effect.
There are another two species of snakes in Cyprus that carry poison but it does not affect humans.
Nicolaou says that snakes do not attack people out of the blue but become aggressive only when they feel threatened. They usually attack other animals to acquire food, or when humans step on them or try to touch them.
How can you protect yourself from snakes?
A simple protection measure people can take against snakes is clearing their property from weeds, which can become home to rodents, thus making it attractive to snakes.
According to Nicolaou, the use of snake repellents is not recommended as they are not particularly effective and can harm the environment.
If you wish to go on a hike, it is better to wear sturdy shoes and long trousers. You should also carry a stick to hit the ground in bushy areas to alert snakes. Snakes have an extraordinary ability to hear vibrations and leave on their own when people are passing by.
The most important thing to have in mind is that there is no reason to panic if you see a snake. They are more afraid of us, than we of them and they won’t chase after us if we change direction, Nicolaou said.
According to Nicolaou, EU and national legislation on killing snakes is strict.
A person who kills a snake can face up to three years in prison and €10,000 in fines. Despite this, fines for killing snakes have yet to be imposed in Cyprus. Uploading pictures of dead snakes on social media is illegal, he added.
What citizens should do when they see a snake on their property is call the fire service, which although not the authority responsible for handling the reptiles, will remove the snake.
Sometimes, the fire service redirects citizens to private reptile keepers who rush to the scene to remove the snakes.
In other countries there are responsible authorities which remove snakes from urban areas. The efforts to create such services in Cyprus are still at an early stage, Nicolaou said.
Which species of snakes live in Cyprus?
Fina – Macrovipera lebetina (blunt-nosed viper)
Saitta – Malpolon insignitus
Dropis – Hemorrhois nummifer (Coin snake)
Hierophis cypriensis (Cyprus whip snake)
Nerofido – Natrix natrix cypriaca (Grass snake)
Xylodropis, ayiodifo –Telescopus fallax (European cat snake)
Therko – Dolichophis jugularis (black whip snake)
Anilios – Typhlops vermicularis