Nigerian Most Venomous Snakes .

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Four families of venomous snakes are found in Nigeria-- Viperidae , Elapidae, Colubridae and Actraspididae but three species carpet viper (Echis ocellatus), black-necked spitting cobra (Naja nigricollis) and puff adder (Bitis arietans), belonging to the first two families, are the most important snakes associated with envenoming in Nigeria. The incidence of bites has been reported as 497 per 100,000 population per year with a 12 percent natural mortality, with Echis ocellatus accounting for at least 66 percent in certain foci. Bites occur more often while victims were farming, herding or walking although the spitting cobra may bite victims who roll upon it in their sleep. Carpet viper venom contains a prothrombin activating procoagulant, haemorrhagin and cytolytic fractions which cause haemorrhage, incoagulable blood, shock and local reactions/ necrosis. The spitting cobra bite manifests with local tissue reaction and occassionally with bleeding from the site of bite, but no classic neurotoxic feature has been observed except following Egyptian cobra (N. haje) bites. Cardiotoxicity and renal failure may occassionally occur following bites by the carpet viper and the puff adder. In the laboratory, haematological and other features are noted and immunodiagnosis has a role in species identification. Immobilisation of the bitten limb is probably the single most important first aid measure. Antivenom should be used cautiously when indicated. As only 8.5 percent of snake bite victims attend hospitals in Nigeria, health education should be the main preventive measure, mean-while, the study of immunisation of occupationally predisposed individuals in endemic areas should be intensified. A new Fab fragment antivenom specific to Nigerian Echis ocellatus was investigated clinically, just as the local herbs-Aristolochia spp, Guiera spp and Schummaniophyton spp are investigated experimentally.

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