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Woman bitten by copperhead snake
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A local woman was bitten by a copperhead snake while working in her garden, according to medical personnel.

"The patient was working in the garden and bitten on the hand," Emergency Services Chief Lanier Swafford said.

The woman was bitten in her yard on Yellow Rose Lane, June 3 around 3:30 p.m.

Swafford said the patient was transported to Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

Anytime someone is bitten by a snake they should call 911, Swafford said.

Gary Kempler, M.D., an Emergency Room Physician at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville said if you think you've been bitten by a poisonous snake to skip the urgent care facility and head straight to the ER.

Urgent Care facilities do not carry anti-venom; however, both Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville and Northside Hospital in Cumming stock anti-venom.

Kempler said while waiting to be transported to the emergency room, patients should rest and immobilize the area of the bite at or below the level of the heart. "It is no longer recommended to suck out poison," he said.

Bite victims should also avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.

Kempler said once a bite victim has arrived at the ER, doctors and staff will observe the bite for swelling and symptoms of venom injection. In 30 to 50 percent of bites from a poisonous snake, the snake doesn't release venom, he said.

If anti-venom is needed, Northeast Georgia Medical Center keeps it in stock. The anti-venom binds to the venom and removes it from the body.

If a strike from a snake goes directly into a vein, a patient will have an onset of pain and swelling within 30 to 60 minutes.

Kempler also says when trying to identify the snake do not try to catch it. "We don't want someone bitten a second time," he said. "Just try to remember what the snake looks like."

Most snakes in the North Georgia area are not poisonous. The most common poisonous snakes are copperheads and rattlesnakes. Kempler recommends learning what they look like.

The Northern Copperhead is what is most commonly found in Northeast Georgia. According to The University of Georgia's Warnell School of Forestry, a northern copperhead has hourglass bands that meet along the spine. The colors vary from brown to tan. It also has a copper-colored head and the young copperheads have a yellow-tipped tail. Most range from three to four feet long. They also have large triangle-shaped heads.

An adult rattlesnake is usually three to five feet long and is gray with black chevron-shaped crossbands. According to UGA's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, a rattlesnake is passive if left undisturbed. The best reaction is to back away if you see one.

And to keep poisonous snakes away, don't kill black snakes known as King snakes. King snakes are non-poisonous and eat poisonous snakes. "Killing a large black snake is paranoid and unproductive," Kempler said.

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