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The Snake Doctor - Sean Bush

 article about Snake expert interview
2004-06-07 15:59:41

Dr. Sean Bush is not only a highly qualified emergency physician but is also considered a leading expert on snakes and the treatment of snake bites. He and Loma Linda University Medical Center are featured in the Animal Planet show, Venom ER. More information about the show schedule can be found at .  I must thank Sean for taking the time out of his very busy days to give me this interview.

KB: How did you get interested in snakes and combine that interest with medicine?

Dr. Bush taping Venom ER

SB: My grandfather gave me a pet venomous snake when I was about five years old. Actually it wasn't dangerously venomous--it was a rear-fanged hognose snake, but it sparked an interest that has lasted my whole life. I have been fascinated by snakes ever since.

When I was in college, I couldn't decide if I wanted to pursue a career in medicine or in herpetology (the study of reptiles). By going into emergency medicine, I could do both.

KB: I know that you have access to a wide variety of snakes in the University of Loma Linda snake lab, but do you keep snakes at home?

SB: I no longer keep dangerous snakes at my home since my son was born.

KB: We have readers from all over the world - can you share with us what you consider to be the most poisonous snakes?

SB: Probably the most dangerous snake in the world is the saw-scaled viper, because it kills the most people.

KB: If one is bitten by a snake, what are the best first aid procedures to follow until trained assistance is available?

SB: Unfortunately, no first aid is safe and effective,  so call 911. Meanwhile, if bitten on the hand, remove rings, bracelets, and watches in anticipation of severe swelling.

KB: Have you ever been bitten by a snake?

SB: I have been bitten hundreds of times by non-venomous snakes, but to me that is no more consequential than being scratched by a kitten. Fortunately, a dangerously venomous snake has never bitten me, and I intend to avoid that encounter. That could be extremely consequential. I try never to handle venomous snakes.

KB: What are the major ways venom acts on the body and what are the symptoms?

SB: Snake venom can cause swelling, bleeding, shock, muscle twitching, and difficulty breathing (among other things).

KB: Is there anything more that you want my readers to know about snakes?

SB: Snakes are the coolest animals on the planet.

They are remarkably adaptive even though they possess no appendages, no means of internal thermal regulation and have earned the contempt of mankind. Although snakes have many strikes against them, they survive and thrive in some of the most extreme habitats: from the hottest, driest desert to the open ocean depths. There is even a snake that flies through the rainforest.

Snakes are one of the scariest animals on earth and they truly are dangerous, killing over 100,000 people worldwide each year. This is many more people than die from all other animal attacks combined.

Sidewinder SnakeSnakes are intertwined in our own history and lore. In the Bible, Moses' staff turned into a snake when he threw it on the ground to demonstrate a miracle of God. Cleopatra died after a cobra bit her on the breast. A snake coiled around a staff symbolizes the medical profession.

Snakes are living pieces of art, coming in all colors and textures and inhabiting the world's most dramatic landscapes. They are enigmatic, enchanting and efficient. All at once they are mystical and miraculous, sophisticated and surreal.

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