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Sept 18, 1967

Bites by Copperheads (Ancistrodon contortrix) in the United States

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Community Health and Medical Practice, University of Missouri School of Medicine, Columbia.

JAMA. 1967;201(12):927-932. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03130120035009

An estimated 2,920 people are bitten by copperheads (Ancistrodon contortrix) annually in the United States. The incidence of bites by these venomous snakes is 16.4 per million population per year. However, the case-fatality rate is exceedingly low, about 0.01%. States having the highest bite rates per million population per year are North Carolina, 157.8; West Virginia, 105.3; Arkansas, 92.9; Oklahoma, 61; Virginia, 48.7; and Texas, 44.2. Males had higher bite rates than females, and whites had higher rates than nonwhites. Most of the bites happened in the victims' own yards from April through October. Ninety-eight percent of the bites were inflicted on the extremities: 36% on the upper and 62% on the lower extremities. The treatment recommended includes incision and suction, "the 3 A's" (antivenin, antibiotics and antitetanus prophylaxis), and general supportive measures.