UPDATE: Snakebite death only state's 2nd from copperhead

Thursday, July 5, 2012 | 4:08 p.m. CDT

VAN BUREN — A southeast Missouri man who died after being bitten by a snake last weekend is only the state's second fatality resulting from a copperhead bite, conservation officials said.

Terry Brown, of Ellsinore, was spending his 50th birthday camping along the Current River when he was bitten about 10 p.m. Saturday while trying to get the young snake out of a tent. He was unconscious within 15 minutes and died at 7:15 a.m. at a hospital.

A.J. Hendershott of the Missouri Department of Conservation said Brown's death is only the second confirmed death associated with a copperhead bite in Missouri as long as records have been kept. The Poplar Bluff Daily American Republic reported that the first was in 1965.

"Death is incredibly uncommon," said Hendershott, an outreach and education regional supervisor with the department's Southeast Regional Office in Cape Girardeau.

Brown's death might be the result of complications from an undiagnosed heart problem, said Carter County deputy coroner Eric McSpadden, who spoke with those at the scene and medical personnel.

"This one would not have been fatal if it had not been for other health conditions," said McSpadden.

Hendershott said rattlesnakes are the most toxic in Missouri, followed by cottonmouth snakes and then copperheads. Treatment varies based on the individual, but children and the elderly are more susceptible to the effects. Hendershott warned that trying to suck out the venom is bad advice.

"Antivenom is the best choice. You need to go to the hospital and be treated properly," he said, adding he would normally be more concerned in the outdoors about the many diseases ticks carry than a copperhead bite.

Brown began camping in the area where he was bitten as a boy. His wife, Eileen, said Tuesday through a family friend that her husband was trying to remove the snake from the tent of two 15-year-old boys who were camping with the family.

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