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Snakes on a claim

Snakes on a claim

A near-fatal brush with a rattlesnake, an infected spider bite and multiple scorpion stings top Southern Cross Travel Insurance’s (SCTI) list of unusual medical claims resulting from chance encounters with wildlife.

One SCTI customer travelling in the US was bitten by a rattlesnake during a camping trip in Wyoming and required immediate hospitalisation and administration of anti-venom.

“That was an expensive one,” recalls Craig Morrison, SCTI CEO. “Rattlesnake anti-venom costs around $20,000 a vial and the typical starting dose for a bite is 4-6 vials.”

Happily, the New Zealander made a full recovery and needed only one day in hospital.

Scorpions hiding in clothing have caused grief for several SCTI travellers, with one customer in Peru suffering multiple stings after putting on their trousers, in which an arachnid had crawled into.

“We also had someone stung five times in their groin, leg and arm while holidaying in Nepal by a scorpion hiding in their clothes. That required a helicopter evacuation to the nearest hospital for treatment.”

Even quick trips across the ditch can result in emergency assistance. A New Zealand woman was hospitalised with a foot ulcer and cellulitis, due to a spider bite. This also required an upgrade to business class in order to have her foot elevated during the flight home.

While events such as these are rare, they do happen, and Morrison recommends travellers spend some time researching their chosen destination – including health requirements and precautions.

An SCTI survey of New Zealand travellers found that while 71% use the internet to do some research on their destination, it’s predominantly to find out about tourist attractions, shopping and currency.

“New Zealand is blessed in that it has no poisonous snakes or scorpions and the two venomous insects are non-aggressive spiders – so it’s not necessarily something Kiwis think about before they travel.”

Reassuringly, the most frequent complaint from travellers when it comes to creepy crawlies is bug bites and Morrison says it’s a good idea to pack antihistamines, even if there has never been an allergic reaction before.

Tips for keeping the bugs away and packing medications:
• Take an insect repellent containing DEET (30%-50%) or picaridin (up to 15%)
• Always shake out shoes and clothing before putting them on.
• Make a list of your medications and what conditions they treat. Include generic and brand names in case you need to buy more overseas – your pharmacist can help with this.
• Prescription medicines should be packed in carry-on luggage and in their original bottles if possible.
• Leave a copy of your prescriptions at home with a friend or relative, or send it to your personal email account so you can recall it if needed.


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