Each hurricane season, emergency-preparedness deployment teams including but not limited to the Office of Force Readiness and Deployment of the US Public Health Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Deployment Medical Assistance Teams, Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams, and the US Army and Air Force National Guard are at risk for deploying into hurricane-stricken areas that harbor indigenous hazards, including those posed by venomous snakes. North America is home to 2 distinct families of venomous snakes: 1) Viperidae, which includes the rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths; and 2) Elapidae, in which the only native species are the coral snakes. Although some of these snakes are easily identified, some are not, and many rank among the most feared and misunderstood animals. This article specifically addresses all the native species of venomous snakes that inhabit the hurricane-prone regions of North America and is intended to serve as a reference to snake identification, basic field safety procedures, and the currently recommended first-aid measures for snakebite casualties.
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Vol. 17 • No. 4