An exotic pet craze sweeping Britain is fuelling soaring numbers of snake bites.
In just over a decade, 321 bites were registered by the National Poisons Information Service.
Of those attacked, 15 had severe symptoms. Victims included 72 children – 13 of whom were five or younger, researchers say.
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Prof David Warrell, from the University of Oxford, said: “Our results show an overall increase in the number of exotic snake bites reported to the NPIS compared to previous figures.
“Most of these bites occur to fingers, hands and wrists following deliberate handling interaction by people who keep snakes as part of their occupation or hobby.
“While ownership of many poisonous species requires a special licence in the UK, it is recognised some individuals may keep these snakes illegally – meaning the true numbers of exotic snake bite injuries may be underestimated.”
Around two thirds of UK bites happened to men.
Up to five million people worldwide are bitten by snakes annually, with 400,000 survivors left disabled or disfigured.
A majority of UK bites (60%) were inflicted by Colubridae family snakes – including hognose snakes and false water cobras.
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One in 100 UK households now owns a snake as a pet – with dangerous or exotic breeds carrying more status.
In 2011, Luke Yeomans, 47, died after being attacked by a king cobra at his snake sanctuary in Nottingham.
Contrary to the myth, sucking out venom could actually speed up poison’s passage into the blood.
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