|Zoya Melnichenko was watering her flowers when she was bit by a copperhead. [Photo by Steve Barrett]|
Zoya Melnichenko was watering her garden in the Parklawn neighborhood at dusk on the day after Mother’s Day when she accidentally stepped on a copperhead and it bit her on the ankle.It actually bit her twice, reports her daughter, Julia Munoz. “The first time, she felt something, looked down, and it bit her again.”
“It was extremely painful. It was the most painful thing she ever experienced,” Munoz says.
Her husband called the paramedics, and they did everything they could but didn’t check which hospital was best equipped to handle a poisonous snake bite. They took Melnichenko to Alexandria Hospital, which didn’t have anti-venom on hand and had to order it. Munoz later learned that anti-venom needs to be administered as soon as possible.
Munoz wants the public to be aware of the danger of copperheads so no one else has to go through what happened to her mother.
The day after Melnichenko was bit, a copperhead bit a 3-year-old boy who playing in his driveway in Arlington, according to a report by Fox 5 News. His hand swelled up and turned purple, and he would lose consciousness and wake up screaming. He was treated with anti-venom and has recovered.
Copperheads are most active in the evening and early morning, Munoz learned, and they are not aggressive. “You can have tons of copperheads around you and they won’t attack” unless you get in their way. She urges people doing outdoor chores in the evening to wear boots and protective clothing.
Look where you’re putting your feet and never reach into a pile of stones, advised Lucy Gallimore, a naturalist at the Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale, which has one juvenile copperhead in its wildlife collection. They are well camouflaged and like to hide among the rocks at Great Falls, she says.
The Northern Copperhead is the only poisonous snake in Virginia. They mostly eat rodents and insects but also eat birds and frogs.
According to Gallimore, “there is no recorded evidence that anyone has died from a copperhead bite.” If bit, however, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible, as the venom could cause hemorrhaging, pain, swelling, breathing problems, headache, nausea, gangrene, and unconsciousness, states an article in West Virginia Wildlife.
Sometimes a snake bite is a “dry bite,” meaning no venom is injected, Gallimore says, but the victim wouldn’t know whether they’ve been subjected to a “dry bite” or “wet bite.”
The snake that bit Melnichenko slithered away and most likely returned to the wooded area behind her house.