VAN BUREN, Mo. -- For only the second time in about 100 years, death due to snakebite has been confirmed in Missouri.
Terry Brown of Ellsinore, Mo., was camped in the area of the Current River known as the Clubhouse on Saturday, his 50th birthday, when he was bitten on the thumb while trying to remove a young copperhead from a tent around 10 p.m., according to Carter County deputy coroner Eric McSpadden. The Clubhouse area is about two miles south of Big Spring.
Emergency responders arrived within 15 minutes to transport Brown to Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center, but the man was already dying, said McSpadden, who spoke with those at the scene and medical personnel.
Brown died at 7:15 a.m. Sunday at the hospital.
Snakebite deaths are rare in the United States, and Brown's death may be the result of complications from an undiagnosed heart problem, McSpadden said.
"This one would not have been fatal if it had not been for other health conditions," he said.
This is only the second confirmed death associated with a copperhead bite in Missouri as long as records have been kept, said A.J. Hendershott, Missouri Department of Conservation outreach and education regional supervisor with the Southeast Regional Office in Cape Girardeau. The first was in 1965.
"Death is incredibly uncommon," Hendershott said.
Rattlesnakes are the most toxic in Missouri, followed by cottonmouth snakes and then copperheads, he said.
Treatment varies based on the individual, but children and the elderly would be more susceptible to the effects. Hendershott warned that trying to suck out the venom is bad advice.
"Antivenom is the best choice. You need to go to the hospital and be treated properly," he said, adding he would normally be more concerned about the many diseases ticks carry than a copperhead bite.
Hendershott advised people to watch where they put their hands and feet while outdoors, the most common places people are bitten. Bites are most likely to occur, according to Hendershott, because people are not careful or because they are trying to deal with a snake.
Brown's wife, Eileen, said Tuesday through a family friend that her husband was trying to remove the snake from the tent of two 15-year-old boys who were camping with the family.
Brown had lived in the Van Buren and Ellsinore areas his entire life and camped in the Clubhouse area since he was a boy.
A visitation followed by a memorial service will begin at 5 p.m. Friday at McSpadden Funeral Home in Van Buren.
Van Buren, MO