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Emergency Medicine Conference Highlights Tuesday 14 August

Media release

Highlights for TUESDAY AUGUST 14, Winter Symposium of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Sebel Hotel, Cairns

11.15 – 12.00

Our Venomous Snakes: Fact And Fiction

Australia is home to most of the world’s most venomous snakes. Many are misjudged, though, the emergency medicine conference will be told.

According to Alex Mitchell, Reptile Department Supervisor at Cairns Tropical Zoo, there are many myths about these animals primarily due to a gross lack of understanding of them from the general public.

He will discuss venomous snake species found globally, focusing primarily upon species of medical significance found throughout Australia.

He will describe the structure of venom apparatus in various groups of snakes, and the general responses of humans to snakes, separating fact from fiction.

Mr Mitchell is responsible for the captive maintenance and management of the zoo’s collection of over 90 species of native and exotic reptile and amphibian species including a number of species of highly venomous Australian elapid snakes and several endangered species such as Fijian Crested Iguanas and Broad-headed Snakes.

He regularly provides snake venom to James Cook University for venom research, as the zoo is home to over 70 venomous snakes.

Each month, a variety of venomous species including taipans, brown snakes, black snakes and death adders are “milked” for their venom, which is used by James Cook University for a variety of research, such as blood clotting, the venom’s effect on the human heart and muscle cells, and developing potential medicines.

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During the “milking” process, each snake is encouraged to bite down on the rubber lid of a small vial while its head is massaged to yield small quantities of venom.

Australia was one of the first countries in the world to experiment with snake antivenoms, and these antivenoms are regarded as amongst the best in the world in terms of high purity and low adverse reaction rate.

1.00 – 2.00

Warning for doctors to be on alert for heightened risk of severe form of dengue

North Queensland has seen multiple outbreaks of a dengue fever in recent years, which have resulted in three deaths and other cases of serious illness.

Emergency physicians will be advised that they should be alert to the heightened risk of severe forms of dengue.

Infectious diseases specialist Professor John McBride, professor of medicine at James Cook University, will tell the conference that the World Health Organization has published a new case definition for severe dengue which should make it easier for clinicians to recognize people at risk for severe infections.

“Dissemination of this information is vital if we are to avoid further fatalities in the region,” he said.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease that occurs in tropical and subtropical areas of the world.

Mild dengue fever causes high fever, rash, and muscle and joint pain.

The severe form of dengue fever – better known as dengue hemorrhagic fever – can cause severe bleeding, a sudden drop in blood pressure, and death.

Dengue outbreaks now occur only in north Queensland but, in the past it has occurred as far south as Brisbane.


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