Bryan Hospital Testing New Antivenom

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The exceptional drought being felt across the state is having wide spread effects. The latest is snake bites. They're on the rise.

The antivenom needed to treat those bites is in short supply and very expensive. St. Joseph Regional Health Center is participating in a new Food and Drug Administration trial that will hopefully cut the cost and increase the supply.

Antivenom usually costs a couple thousand dollars per vial. Most patients need many vials to treat a snake bite.

With no end in sight for this extreme heat, hospitals are bracing for an active and expensive summer.

For 9-year-old Alece Matthews, camping isn't the same.

"I liked camping a lot before," says Alece. Before she was bitten by snake.

"I didn't see it. It felt like a bee stung me on my foot," explains Alece.

Snakes are on the move, searching for water and cooler spaces. It means that more of them are being seen, and in some cases, striking out against humans.

"I've never seen anything like it as far as the number of snake bites we've seen," says Dr. Michael Spohn, with St. Joseph Emergency Services. He says they normally see two or three bites a month. This year, they've seen 9 in the last six weeks.

"We've seen things as simple as a two and a half year old reaching over to pick up a worm that ended up being a snake," says Spohn.

Treating these bites isn't cheap. Hospitals pay tens of thousands of dollars for a small supply of antivenom.

"There is such an expense in producing it, and there is a shelf life with it, they try to make sure that it is just along the needs instead of an overproduction of it," explains Spohn.

For the Matthews family, having the antivenom in supply saved Alece.

"I'm careful of all snakes now," laughs Erica Matthews, Alece's mom.

"I'm going to be very careful of any of them."

If the FDA approves the antivenom being tried at St. Joe's, the hope is the cost will come down. Lower costs means more affordable treatment, for patients, and hospitals.

Each year, nearly 7,000 people are bitten by snakes. In Texas, one to two people die from snake bites annually.