Day 4 – Meserani Snake Park Clinic

February 23, 2011

This morning we listened to a fabulous lecture on malaria by our expedition leader and tropical medicine specialist, Dr. Kay Schaefer. For some there is a perpetuation amongst the field of travelers that once you have malaria you have it forever, rest assured there is treatment for all forms of malaria (take your prophylaxis though and you have a 90% chance of not getting it!). Treatment of malaria in children presents more challenge, and as I suspected I find these cases to be so hard to observe, a preventable disease that kills so many every day. Between 1 and 3 million die annually, the majority are children and live in Africa.

We then traveled to the Meserani Snake Park in Arusha. Here we met “B.J.”, the owner of the park and the clinic. He provides free anti-venom treatment for the patients. Each vial costs $200.00 and for some bites, like a neurotoxic bite from a black mamba, the patient can require up to 7 vials for stabilization. There are neurotoxic and cytotoxic types of bites and treatment and symptoms vary depending on the bite. Most of the bites are from puff adders and mambas but they also have spitting cobras and pythons here. The black mamba is the scariest to me as it is a very aggressive snake. It raises up to 1/3 its height and actually chases you at what would be a slow jogging speed. It is also known as the “7 Deadly Steps”, some victims don’t make it past step #8 post bite. We saw a young Massai woman with a snake bite of her hand. Many Tanzanian women give birth at home. She was giving birth alone on the floor of her home (these homes are made in a traditional way with cow dung, sticks and dirt) and while she was delivering her own baby she was bitten on the hand by a snake. It is believed to be a puff adder but she did not see it as it was nighttime. The baby is about 2 days old; the Massai at times will walk for miles to be seen. They will both be okay.

The Meserani Snake Park Clinic

Treatment for a Puff Adder Snake Bite

Black Mamba Snake