El Niño could increase snakebites this winter - Tucson News Now

El Niño could increase snakebites this winter

(Photo: David Mikesic, AP) (Photo: David Mikesic, AP)

As many of us have likely heard frequently in the news headlines lately, this year's El Niño is expected to be one of the most significant episodes since we've been keeping records.  

According to a recent article in USA Today, researchers have found that snakebite rates increase during El Niño events.  

The researchers studied the impacts that extreme weather fluctuations had on the environment and health.  

Most of the research was focused in Costa Rica, where snakebite records are required to be kept in great detail.  

Around 7,000 to 8,000 people are bitten in the U.S. every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  On average, about five people die from snakebites each year in the United States.  

The CDC says that number would be much higher if people did not seek medical care.

Heavy rains often disturb the snake population, which many times forces them into closer contact with the human population.  

In fact, after rainfall plagued parts of Georgia in 2013, there was a noticeable increase in snakebite cases. Flooding often forces the snakes into places where they're not usually found, according to flood safety organizations.  

Thanks to this year's strong El Niño episode, above average rainfall is forecasted for much of the western United States and the desert southwest this winter.

The takeaway, keep an eye out for snakes seeking shelter in odd places this winter, even during the times when they are typically dormant.

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