Reports of rattlesnake bites in Arizona on rise

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center in Tucson says reports of rattlesnake bites this month are the highest in three years.

The center serves all of southern and northern Arizona and is located at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy.

Officials said Tuesday they've been called by emergency room physicians about 14 snakebites in the last six days.

Since the beginning of August, there's been 24 reported rattlesnake bites in the center's service area.

That compares to 17 at this time last year and nine in the first three weeks of August 2010.

Center officials didn't immediately provide an explanation for the rise in rattlesnake bites.

Venomous snakebites require prompt medical attention. Experts say there are no field first-aid treatments that help.

Tips to avoid snakebite

Be aware of peak movement times. Reptiles in Arizona are most active in the warmer months of April through October. During the hottest months, they will be most active at night.

Watch where you put your hands and feet. Try to keep your hands and feet out of crevices in rocks, wood piles and deep grass. Always carry a flashlight and wear shoes or boots when walking after dark.

Leave reptiles alone. Up to 70 percent of reptile bites managed by the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center were provoked by the person who was bitten – that is, someone was trying to kill, capture or harass the animal.

Dead snakes can bite. Never handle a venomous reptile, even after it's dead. Reflex strikes with injected venom can occur for several hours after death.

Install outdoor lighting for yards, porches and sidewalks. If you see a venomous reptile in your yard, it is probably just "passing through." However, if you are concerned about a dangerous animal in your yard, seek professional assistance in removing it.

Be Alert for Rattlers: 14 Bites Reported to Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center in 6 Days