How many venemous snakebites are estimated to occur annually, globally and in the United States?

Updated: May 08, 2020
  • Author: Spencer Greene, MD, MS, FACEP, FACMT, FAAEM; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Answer

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there are up to 1.8 million bites from venomous snakes annually worldwide, causing 20,000-90,000 deaths. [1] The vast majority of venomous snake species are viperids (eg, rattlesnakes, Gaboon vipers) or elapids (eg, cobras, taipans). Although most snakes in the Colubridae family are nonvenomous, some (eg, boomslang) are venomous and responsible for significant morbidity and mortality.

In the United States, several thousand snakebites occur every year, resulting in fewer than 10 deaths. [2, 3, 4, 5] There are four types of venomous snakes native to the United States: copperheads, cottonmouths (water moccasins), rattlesnakes, and coral snakes. The first three are crotalids in the family Viperidae, subfamily Crotalinae. There are approximately 25 species of rattlesnakes in the genera Crotalus and Sistrurus. The genus Agkistrodon has both copperheads (Agkistrodoncontortrix, Agkistrodonlaticinctus) and cottonmouths (Agkistrodonpiscivorus, Agkistrodonconanti). Collectively, these crotalids, also known as pit vipers, account for greater than 95% of all native snake envenomations.

Coral snakes are the only elapids that are native to the Western hemisphere, and the three species of US coral snakes account for less than 5% of all native envenomations.


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