Snake bite kills St. Charles man

ST. CHARLES, Mo. – A St. Charles man has died as a result of a bite from a copperhead snake while camping in southeast Missouri.

According to Wayne County Sheriff Dean Finch, Timothy Levins and his family had camped out at Sam A. Baker State Park. Levins and his son walked outside, saw the snake and brought it to his son's attention. When he picked it up, the snake bit him.

Levins became sick and a neighboring cabin came over to help and called an ambulance. Levins was later pronounced dead at an area hospital.

The coroner ruled Levins died due to anaphylactic shock due to a snake bite.

In the history of Missouri, three deaths have occurred from copperhead snake bites, including Levins.
Finch suggests that if you notice a copperhead snake, that you shouldn't pick it up.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Levins children's college fund. Visitation will be held Sunday from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. at Stygar Mid Rivers Funeral Home, 5987 Mid Rivers Mall Drive, with the funeral Monday at 10 a.m. at St. Peter Catholic Church in St. Charles.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, snakebite ranks just above falling space debris as a threat to human life. The Missouri Poison Center recorded 596 venomous snakebites in the seven-year period from 1993 through 1999, or about 85 per year. None of those were fatal. The last documented death from a copperhead bite in Missouri was in 1965.

The Show-Me State has five venomous snakes. These are the copperhead, the cottonmouth, and the timber rattlesnake, pygmy rattlesnake and massasauga rattlesnakes. The other 30-odd snake species native to Missouri may bite if cornered or handled, but their bites are not dangerous.

If you have one of the old-style snakebite kits with razor blades and suction cups, the Department of Conservation says throw it away. This form of treatment has been found to be ineffective, and cutting on the hands and feet can cause serious damage to tendons.

If bitten, take the following actions:
- Move out of striking range of the snake.
- Remain calm and minimize physical activity. Excitement and exercise increase blood flow and spread the venom, if any is present. (Remember, there's a one-in-four chance you got a dry bite!)
- DO NOT try to capture or kill the snake. Medical treatment will be the same regardless of the type of snake that bit you.
- Remove rings, watches and restrictive clothing in case swelling occurs, and rinse off any venom on the skin around the bite.
- Immobilize the bitten area to minimize venom spread.
- Take the victim to the NEAREST doctor or medical facility. Call for emergency assistance if this will speed up transportation.
- Call ahead to the medical facility so they can have the necessary drugs on hand.

Equally important is what not to do. DO NOT:
- Apply ice to the bite.
- Cut the wound or attempt to remove venom.
- Apply a tourniquet or constricting bands.
- Use an electrical device to shock the bite.
- Drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages.

Q: How can I avoid snakebite?

A: Here are some ways to reduce the already tiny risk of snakebite:
- Learn to identify venomous snakes, and know their habits.
- Never handle venomous snakes.
- When possible, delay work until snakes' inactive period from November through March.
- Wear boots and heavy trousers when working or hiking in areas where snakes live.
- Wear a heavy, long-sleeved shirt and leather gloves when you must work with your hands around rock piles or other snake habitat.
- Use a pole, rake, stick, etc. to probe snake-prone areas before starting work.
- Work or hike with other people for mutual aid in case of emergency.

Associated Press contributed to this report.


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