Date: January 17, 2017
Source: University of Melbourne
An Australian-first national analysis of 13 years' data on bites and stings from venomous creatures reveals Australia's towns and cities are a hot-spot for encounters.
The stereotype-busting research also shows that of all Australia's venomous creatures, it is bees and other insects -- not snakes, spiders, or jellyfish -- that pose the biggest public health threat.
Including fatalities, venomous stings and bites resulted in almost 42,000 hospitalizations over the study period. Bees and wasps were responsible for just over one-third (33%) of hospital admissions, followed by spider bites (30%) and snake bites (15%).
Overall, 64 people were killed by a venomous sting or bite, with more than half of these deaths (34) due to an allergic reaction to an insect bite that caused anaphylactic shock.
Snake bites caused 27 deaths. Importantly, snake bite envenoming caused nearly twice as many deaths per hospital admission than other venomous creatures, making snake bite one of the most important venomous injuries to address.
Bees and wasps killed 27 people, Only one case of a beekeeper and one case of a snake catcher recorded. Tick bites caused three deaths and ant bites another two. And box jellyfish killed three people. There were two unknown insects. No spider bite fatalities were registered.
Public health expert at the Australian Venom Unit at the University of Melbourne, Dr Ronelle Welton, led the study, published in the Internal Medicine Journal. She says she was surprised to find so many deaths and hospitalisations up and down the populated coastal areas of Australia.
"More than half of deaths happened at home, and almost two-thirds (64%) occurred, not in the isolated areas we might expect, but rather, in major cities and inner-regional areas where healthcare is readily accessible," she said.