Snakebite injuries treated in United States emergency departments, 2001-2004

Wilderness Environ Med. 2007 Winter;18(4):281-7. doi: 10.1580/06-WEME-OR-080R1.1.


Objective: Venomous and nonvenomous snakes are found throughout most of the United States. While the literature on treatment is robust, there is not a current national epidemiologic profile of snakebite injuries in the United States. National estimates of such injuries treated in emergency departments (EDs) are presented along with characteristics of the affected population.

Methods: Data on snakebite injuries were abstracted from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program (2001-04). Variables included age, gender, body part affected, cause, disposition, and treatment date. When available, location, intentionality of the interaction, and snake species were coded based on narrative comments. Estimates were weighted and analyzed with SPSS Complex Samples.

Results: An estimated 9873 snakebites were treated in US EDs each year between 2001 and 2004. Males were more frequently seen in the ED for snakebites than were females (males: 72.0% [95% confidence interval (CI), 68.0-75.7]; females: 28.0% [95% CI, 24.3-32.0]). Approximately 32% of patients were known to be bitten by venomous species. Overall, more than one quarter of patients were hospitalized (27.9% [95% CI, 15.9-44.2]), although 58.9% of patients with known venomous bites were hospitalized (95% CI, 41.5-74.3).

Conclusions: While they are rare events, snakebites cause nearly 10,000 visits to EDs for treatment every year. Epidemiologic data regarding snakebites provide practicing physicians with an understanding of the population affected and can help guide public health practitioners in their prevention efforts.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Sex Factors
  • Snake Bites / epidemiology*
  • United States
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*