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Tuesday
Mar222011

Cottonmouth Viper 'Spit' Sends National Zoo Employee to Hospital

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock (file)(WASHINGTON) -- What do you get when you mix snake urine, feces and venom? For a reptile keeper at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., the toxic concoction got her a quick trip to the hospital and a star appearance Monday on the District of Columbia Fire Department's twitter feed.

"EMS - snake bite - National Zoo - 3001 Connecticut Av NW - health unit - adult employee bit by snake," DC Fire and EMS tweeted at 4 p.m. Monday, still breaking in its new Twitter account.

That snippet was soon followed by this one:

"Update - Zoo - Cotton Mouth Viper 'spit' at keeper - EMS evaluated & transported adult female - checkup not serious anti-venom on board."

It turns out that while the reptile keeper was attempting to transfer a three-foot-long cottonmouth viper to its holding cage, the snake bit itself in the tail, releasing a combination of urine, feces and venom. A small amount of that mixture shot into the employee's right eye.

After securing the snake, the employee was helped to an eye-wash station near the snake habitat and then to the zoo's health unit where her eye was rinsed again. "As an abundance of caution, she was sent to the hospital," zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said.

Both the snake and the zoo keeper are "absolutely fine," Baker-Masson said.

Cottonmouths, also known as water moccasins, can "cause very severe, and even sometimes fatal, damage when they bite. But this is very uncommon because the cottonmouths are normally not very aggressive creatures," according to the zoo's web site.

Their venom breaks down blood cells, preventing clotting and potentially causing hemorrhages.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio