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Archive for Wednesday, September 5, 2001

Two-year-old bitten by rattlesnake

September 5, 2001

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— A 2-year-old boy was hospitalized after being bitten by a rattlesnake while playing in the basement of his rural home.

Cody Atchison, bitten Monday morning, was in fair condition Tuesday at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center in Topeka.

It was unclear how the snake got into the home near Burlingame, about 20 miles southwest of Topeka, but one expert said the 8-inch rattler was probably a baby that had not yet learned to stay away from humans.

"It's that time of year," said Joe Collins, a herpetologist with the Kansas Biological Survey in Lawrence. "All the baby snakes are being born or hatched out, and they're everywhere. There's an explosion in the numbers of both venomous and harmless snakes."

It's also not uncommon for snakes to get into basements, Collins said, particularly in rural areas, older homes or houses where basements were once linked to a well.

Based on the description of the snake that bit the boy Monday, Collins said he thought it was a massasauga, which belongs to the pygmy rattlesnake group and grows to be about 30 inches long.

A relative of the child captured the snake and apparently disposed of it later, Burlingame Assistant Fire Chief Jon Shaffer said.

The boy was bitten less than two months after the country's only manufacturer of antivenin the only product available to neutralize toxins from poisonous North American snakes warned of shortages of the drug.

Doctors had enough antivenin on hand to treat the boy, but had to have more flown in to replenish the supply, said Cindy Yelkin, a spokeswoman for Stormont-Vail.

Pennsylvania-based Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories said in July that the shortage was due to the closing for renovations of a plant in Pennsylvania.

The company said at the time that orders were being filled on an emergency basis only. Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories added that supplies should last until the plant is reopened in the spring if hospitals use the serum prudently.

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