Why snakebites are on the rise in Georgia this year

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Nearly 400 people have been bitten by snakes in Georgia just this year.??

Nearly 400 people have been bitten by a snake so far in 2019; record is 466

Nearly 400 people in Georgia have been bitten by a snake so far this year, and the warm weather might cause that number to rise.

"Of those, we're seeing more venomous snakebites," Dr. Robert Geller, medical director of Georgia Poison Center, told Channel 2 Action News. "Get upclose and personal with snakes, you're asking for trouble."

» Photos: Georgia's venomous snakes and how to identify them

Geller has led the Georgia Poison Center for 31 years and has seen a steady increase year after year, he told Channel 2.

A combination of the effects of a warmer climate and human encroachment into their environment has led to a jump in the number of venomous snakebites in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas, according to a story from the Wall Street Journal.

Climate change that has led to wetter winters and neighborhoods that are expanding into the snake's habitat are to blame for the increase in bites, the Journal story said.

“There’s no question as we build out more, we’re definitely inhabiting the areas where snakes reside,” Gaylord Lopez, managing director of the Georgia Poison Center, told the Journal.

» Snakebites on the rise in 3 Southern states; rain, encroachment to blame, scientists say

The Georgia Poison Center receives hundreds of phone calls concerning snakebites every year. It has seen a considerable increase in snakebites over the years, its website states, with 2016 being highest with 466 snakebite calls. Of those 466, nearly 20% were treated with antidote, most for copperhead bites.

Of the 46 species of snakes known in Georgia, only six are venomous: copperhead, cottonmouth, Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, timber/canebrake rattlesnake, pigmy rattlesnake and Eastern coral snake.

» How to protect your pet from snakebites

You can prevent snakebites by avoiding places where snakes might be. If you have to venture into their space, watch where you step.

If you are bitten, here are five things to do:

  1. Keep still and stay calm
  2. Remove all jewelry and tight clothing, in the event of swelling
  3. Note the color and shape of the snake, and what time the bite happened
  4. Wash the bite with soap and water, and cover it with a clean, dry dressing
  5. Call the GPC at 1-800-222-1222

Here are seven things you should not do:

  1. Pick up the snake or try to trap it
  2. Apply a tourniquet or attempt to restrict blood flow to the affected area
  3. Cut the wound
  4. Attempt to suck out the venom
  5. Apply heat, cold, electricity or any substance to the bite
  6. Drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages
  7. Take any drugs or medicines

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