Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Venomous Animals Week Living with Yellow-beard
23 December 2014

Living with Yellow-beard

In Central America, about 5,500 people are bitten by venomous snakes each year. The pit viper Bothrops asper is responsible for the majority of these cases. Its various nicknames – barba amarilla [yellow beard], equis [X] and, in Belize, yellow-jaw tommygoff – all hint at its pale yellow underside and chin, and the dark X-shaped markings along its back. Panama has the highest incidence of poisonous snakebites in Central America, El Salvador has the lowest, largely because Bothrops asper doesn’t like El Salvador’s dry Pacific coast. A new study proposes several ways to confront this public health issue such as improving anti-venom deployment strategies in rural clinics and preventing snakebites through educational campaigns aimed at indigenous communities. This cover image belongs to a publication given to the Cabécar ethnic group in Costa Rica in their native language, which outlines a procedure to rush a snakebite victim to the nearest health centre.

Written by Nick Kennedy

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