One of the snake’s handlers was hospitalized Monday after the highly venomous viper struck. The San Diego Zoo remains “in close contact” with the victim, as there is no known antivenom for the species.
As any zookeeper knows, bites and scratches come with the territory. Said territory can be far more deadly, however, when you’re caring for highly venomous species. One such San Diego Zoo herp-keeper is in the hospital after being bit by one of their snakes.
Not just any snake, though. The species involved is identified as an African bush viper. Among the most deadly animals on the planet, the Atheris squamigera‘s kill-factor is elevated by the absence of any known antivenom for its bite.
Speaking to PEOPLE Tuesday, the San Diego Zoo clarifies that their employee was caring for the African bush viper in a “private area of the facility.”
“In keeping with our protocols, the staff member was immediately taken to a hospital for evaluation and medical care,” the zoo’s spokesperson continues, noting they “remain in close contact” with the victim.
San Diego Zoo is quick to note, however, that “incidents like this are very rare,” despite their facility caring “for a number of venomous reptiles.”
African Bush Viper Snake Venom ‘Typically Kills Within Days’
While the current status of the San Diego Zoo employee remains under wraps, Outsider hopes for a full recovery.
The handler will need all the well-wishes we can send. This species of viper in particular holds a nasty set of symptoms. These include “serious kidney damage and disrupt blood clotting and flow,” according to National Geographic. In addition, victims will experience “severe inflammation, hemorrhaging, and tissue death.”
Unfortunately, NatGeo also states that the African bush viper’s “venom typically kills within days.”
Moreover, a study from the American College of Medical Toxicology reveals that this deadly snake “can cause fevers or internal bleeding, which can be fatal.”
Thankfully, there is good news. The ACMT also found that an antivenom treatment for other vipers was effective in treating a “healthy” 32-year-old victim of an African bush viper. This victim, an amateur snake keeper, did make a full recovery.
In addition, a similar antivenom treatment went to a Dallas-Fort Worth area man in 2015. The individual was keeping an African bush viper illegally at his home, the Dallas Morning News said at the time.
If not for the Dallas Zoo, the man likely would’ve died. “The zoo keeps thousands of vials — about $200,000 worth — in a small refrigerator,” DMN reported. In cases like this, the Dallas Zoo will send an antivenom “that specific papers have shown could work.”
Hopefully, San Diego Zoo is deploying one of these methods for their victim.