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Envenoming by coral snakes (Micrurus) in Argentina, during the period between 1979-2003.

Envenomation by coral snakes (Micrurus sp.) is one of the most dangerous injuries in America and it is considered as a serious medical emergency, however bites by these snakes appear to be rare. We analyzed epidemiological data, clinical signs and antivenom use in Argentina during the period between 1979-2003. During this period of study 46 non-fatal Micrurus bites were reported. The majority of cases were men from 31 to 40 years old. Bites occurred primarily in spring and summer. Most cases were reported from the northeast and northwest provinces of the country. The bites were mostly located on hands or feet and occurred mostly during agricultural activities and so mainly involved farmers. Only four cases occurred as a result of handling snakes. The median time it took for antivenom to be administrated was 60 minutes after the bite, and the median number of vials applied was 2. Local pain was mentioned and edema was reported in 41% of patients. All patients recovered without sequelae. This study showed a low incidence of Micrurus bites and low severity of envenomation. However, although no deaths have been reported during the last 30 years, given the toxicity of the venom of Micrurus snakes, the risk of severe envenomation should be considered.

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