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Aspidelaps scutatus
General Details, Taxonomy and Biology, Venom, Clinical Effects, Treatment, First Aid , Antivenoms
Aspidelaps scutatus ( Shield Snake )  [ Original photo copyright © Dr Julian White ]
Family: Elapidae
Subfamily: Elapinae
Genus: Aspidelaps
Species: scutatus
Subspecies: scutatus , intermedius , fulafula
Common Names
Shield Snake , Shield-nose Snake ( A. s. scutatus ) , Intermediate Shield-nose Snake ( A. s. intermedius ) , Eastern Shield-nose Snake ( A. s. fulafula ) , kalahari Shield Cobra ( A. s. scutatus ) , Intermediate Shield Cobra ( A. s. intermedius ) , Eastern Shield Cobra ( A. s. fulafula )
Local Names
Skildneusslang
Region
Sub-Saharan Africa
Countries
Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe
 
Taxonomy and Biology
Adult Length: 0.40 m
General Shape
Small in length, relatively thick bodied snake with a short, obtusely pointed tail. Can grow to a maximum of about 0.74 metres. Head is short, broad and slightly distinct from neck. Snout is broad and adapted for burrowing, indistinct canthus. Eyes are medium in size with vertically elliptical pupils. Dorsal scales are smooth to faintly keeled anteriorly but become strongly keeled posteriorly and somewhat knobby or tuberculate on the tail without apical pits. Ventrals are rounded.
Habitat
Savanna and sandveld.
Habits
Nocturnal and semifossorial, spends the day in rodent burrows, under loose stones or fallen logs. Burrows underground in sandy soil by using its snout like a bulldozer. Sluggish snake. Emerges at night particularly after rain. If threatened it will rear up, flatten its neck and hiss. It may also feign death.
Prey
Feeds on a variety of prey including small mammals, amphibians, lizards and sometimes small snakes.
Species Map
Small (Approx 20k) version
 
Venom
General: Venom Neurotoxins
Unknown
General: Venom Myotoxins
Unknown
General: Venom Procoagulants
Unknown
General: Venom Anticoagulants
Unknown
General: Venom Haemorrhagins
Unknown
General: Venom Nephrotoxins
Unknown
General: Venom Cardiotoxins
Unknown
General: Venom Necrotoxins
Unknown
General: Venom Other
Unknown
 
Clinical Effects
General: Dangerousness
Moderate envenoming possible and potentially lethal
General: Rate of Envenoming: Unknown
General: Untreated Lethality Rate: Unknown
General: Local Effects
Local pain & swelling
General: Local Necrosis
Not likely to occur
General: General Systemic Effects
Variable non-specific effects which may include headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, dizziness, collapse or convulsions
General: Neurotoxic Paralysis
Uncommon to rare, but potentially moderate to severe flaccid paralysis
General: Myotoxicity
Not likely to occur
General: Coagulopathy & Haemorrhages
Unlikely to occur
General: Renal Damage
Unlikely to occur
General: Cardiotoxicity
Unlikely to occur
General: Other
Not likely to occur
 
First Aid
Description: First aid for bites by Elapid snakes which do not cause significant injury at the bite site (see Comments for partial listing), but which may have the potential to cause significant general (systemic) effects, such as paralysis, muscle damage, or bleeding.
Details
1. After ensuring the patient and onlookers have moved out of range of further strikes by the snake, the bitten person should be reassured and persuaded to lie down and remain still. Many will be terrified, fearing sudden death and, in this mood, they may behave irrationally or even hysterically. The basis for reassurance is the fact that many venomous bites do not result in envenoming, the relatively slow progression to severe envenoming (hours following elapid bites, days following viper bites) and the effectiveness of modern medical treatment.
2. The bite wound should not be tampered with in any way. Wiping it once with a damp cloth to remove surface venom is unlikely to do much harm (or good) but the wound must not be massaged. For Australian snakes only, do not wash or clean the wound in any way, as this may interfere with later venom detection once in a hospital.
3. All rings or other jewellery on the bitten limb, especially on fingers, should be removed, as they may act as tourniquets if oedema develops.
4. If the bite is on a limb, a broad bandage (even torn strips of clothing or pantyhose) should be applied over the bitten area at moderate pressure (as for a sprain; not so tight circulation is impaired), then extended to cover as much of the bitten limb as possible, including fingers or toes, going over the top of clothing rather than risking excessive limb movement by removing clothing. The bitten limb should then be immobilised as effectively as possible using an extemporised splint or sling.
5. If there is any impairment of vital functions, such as problems with respiration, airway, circulation, heart function, these must be supported as a priority. In particular, for bites causing flaccid paralysis, including respiratory paralysis, both airway and respiration may be impaired, requiring urgent and prolonged treatment, which may include the mouth to mask (mouth to mouth) technique of expired air transfer. Seek urgent medical attention.
6. Do not use Tourniquets, cut, suck or scarify the wound or apply chemicals or electric shock.
7. Avoid peroral intake, absolutely no alcohol. No sedatives outside hospital. If there will be considerable delay before reaching medical aid, measured in several hours to days, then give clear fluids by mouth to prevent dehydration.
8. If the offending snake has been killed it should be brought with the patient for identification (only relevant in areas where there are more than one naturally occurring venomous snake species), but be careful to avoid touching the head, as even a dead snake can envenom. No attempt should be made to pursue the snake into the undergrowth as this will risk further bites.
9. The snakebite victim should be transported as quickly and as passively as possible to the nearest place where they can be seen by a medically-trained person (health station, dispensary, clinic or hospital). The bitten limb must not be exercised as muscular contraction will promote systemic absorption of venom. If no motor vehicle or boat is available, the patient can be carried on a stretcher or hurdle, on the pillion or crossbar of a bicycle or on someone's back.
10. Most traditional, and many of the more recently fashionable, first aid measures are useless and potentially dangerous. These include local cauterization, incision, excision, amputation, suction by mouth, vacuum pump or syringe, combined incision and suction ("venom-ex" apparatus), injection or instillation of compounds such as potassium permanganate, phenol (carbolic soap) and trypsin, application of electric shocks or ice (cryotherapy), use of traditional herbal, folk and other remedies including the ingestion of emetic plant products and parts of the snake, multiple incisions, tattooing and so on.
 
Treatment
Treatment Summary
At least some Aspidelaps species can cause major systemic envenoming (flaccid paralysis), so all cases require urgent assessment and at least overnight observation, to detect late developing paralysis. Treatment is supportive & symptomatic. No antivenom is available.
Key Diagnostic Features
Local pain & swelling + general systemic symptoms ± paralysis
General Approach to Management
All cases should be treated as urgent & potentially lethal. Rapid assessment & commencement of treatment including appropriate antivenom (if indicated & available) is mandatory. Admit all cases.
Antivenom Therapy
No antivenom available
Antivenoms
No Antivenoms
Aspidelaps scutatus ( Shield Snake ) [ Original photo copyright © Dr Julian White ]
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