Severed snake head bites, kills chef in China

September 1, 2014, 3:34 pm

Indonesian spitting cobra

Indonesian spitting cobra

USA Today reports that a chef in China died recently after being bitten by the decapitated head of an Indonesian spitting cobra, possibly Naja sputatrix. Chef Peng Fan beheaded the snake in preparation for making traditional cobra soup at his restaurant in Guangdong province. Ten to twenty minutes later, when he was disposing of the head, it bit him. “We did not know what was happening” one diner said, “but could hear screams coming from the kitchen.”  The chef was dead before medical help could arrive. Cobra venom is predominantly neurotoxic and cardiotoxic. Death could have come to the chef from respiratory arrest and asphyxia, or cardiac arrhythmia. Although such a case is extremely rare, it’s well known that some snakes can maintain reflexic biting action for up to an hour after being separated from the body. This is also true for rattlesnakes and copperheads, among other species. In fact, even after all reflex activity has ceased, venom remaining on the snake’s fangs can cause medical problems if it punctures the skin.

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