Reptile envenomation 20-year mortality as reported by US medical examiners

South Med J. 2004 Jul;97(7):642-4. doi: 10.1097/00007611-200407000-00006.


Objectives: Accurate reptile envenomation mortality data for the United States is unavailable. Using data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), deaths from 1979 through 1998 were analyzed.

Methods: Records of deaths from reptile envenomation were selected using matches to code E905.0 of the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision. Data for the US population was taken from the 2000 US census estimates.

Results: The National Vital Statistics System identified 97 deaths from venomous reptile bites that occurred during the study period. Texas (n = 17), Florida (n = 14), and Georgia (n = 12) reported the most fatalities (44% of fatalities, 16% of 2000 US population). No deaths were reported from 24 states or the District of Columbia. Of the 97 decedents, 88 (91%) were white and 7 (7%) were black. One male and one female were categorized as "other" race. White males had the highest incidence of death by reptile envenomation, accounting for 76% of all fatalities, while comprising only 41% of the US population. Accounting for 19 of the 97 fatalities, males 25 to 34 years old had the most deaths (19.6% of deaths, but 7.1% of the 2000 US population).

Conclusions: From 1979 through 1998, less than 100 deaths by venomous reptile bite were reported nationwide. White male Southerners appear to be at greatest risk. This finding of a specific high-risk population may require further investigation and public health intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Black People
  • Coroners and Medical Examiners
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Snake Bites / mortality*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People