A Canadian man who was bitten by a snake while vacationing in Costa Rica survived because of antivenin provided by a Seattle zoo, officials said Friday.
Michael Lovatt of Vancouver, B.C., had not realized he’d been bitten by a viper on his foot, but when the 61-year-old returned home on Monday, he was ill and was diagnosed with kidney failure after being rushed to the hospital. His legs were swollen from his foot to his mid-thigh.
But not knowing what bit him, doctors called in help from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. The medical team determined based on Lovatt’s symptoms that he was bitten by a Fer-de-lance Bothrops asper, which is native to Central and South America and is known to be deadly to humans.
The medical team contacted the Woodland Park Zoo and Harborview Medical Center for help.
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The zoo keeps a cache of antivenins from Mexican pit vipers, cantils, rattlesnakes, eyelash vipers and bushmasters. They are kept in case of emergencies.
Once the call came in from the Canadians, a zoo curator took 20 vials of the antivenin to Harborview, where an air ambulance picked them up and ferried them to Vancouver.
“Receiving the call for help was quite a harrowing experience,” said Mark Myers, a curator at the zoo.
The patient’s blood clotting improved dramatically within minutes of receiving the antivenin and his condition stabilized within six hours, said Dr. Roy Purssell of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
“Without the dedication of medical experts on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, and Woodland Park Zoo, this man may have succumbed to his injuries,” said B.C. Centre for Disease Control spokeswoman Carol Swan.