The high cost of antivenom at West Texas hospitals - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

The high cost of antivenom at West Texas hospitals

(Source: KCBD) (Source: KCBD)

We've told you about two recent cases of rattlesnake bites across the South Plains.

A 2-year-old was bitten in Kress this week, and earlier, a man from Klondike has been bitten by a deadly Mojave Rattlesnake.

NewsChannel 11 decided to look into what it takes to treat these victims and see if antivenom is readily available at hospitals across the South Plains.

Dr. Chris Piel, the Emergency Room medical director at University Medical Center says even though the victims were sent to Lubbock for treatment, rural hospitals do carry the antivenom needed to treat these cases.

"Smaller hospitals carry antivenom, usually to initiate therapy when there are snake bites in the rural areas - obviously that's where a lot of them occur," Piel said.

Piel says it's not unusual to see one snake bite case a week come into the ER during the summer months, sometimes even two in one day.

These injuries are common, so Piel says the hospitals are fully stocked with the antivenom needed to treat these cases.

"We never fear we're going to run out. If we even feel like the levels are getting low, we would have it drop shipped over night and it would be here immediately," Piel said.

The antivenom these hospitals have can be used to treat all the venomous species in North America. For those of us in West Texas, that means rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and copperheads.

But, every snake bite is different, and the hospitals treat every patient depending on the type of snake and specific type of envenomation.

Dr. Piel says on average, a snakebite victim needing antivenom therapy could be given 18 to 20 vials.

Each vial could cost thousands of dollars.

The price is steep because the antivenom only comes from one company.

"They have to envenomate the other animals in order to develop the antibody and develop, so the development stage of this particular antivenom is expensive," Piel said.

While it may be pricey, Dr. Piel says it is necessary for recovery.

"It's a superior product, that is definitely worth the use despite the cost."

Dr. Piel says if you are bitten, seek medical attention immediately, do not try to kill the snake.

Piel says snakes are nocturnal, so be extra cautious during the night time hours.

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