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Vipers and Pitvipers: Viperidae

Vipers, Pitvipers, And People

While viper and pitviper bites of humans are quite rare, they do occur often enough and cause enough deaths to be a concern in some areas. For this reason, people often kill vipers and pitvipers, along with any other snakes that remotely resemble them. In addition, people hunt and kill these snakes to use in medicines.


Although many snakes are harmless to humans, some produce venom and can be quite deadly. People who have been bitten by a venomous snake often receive antivenin (an-tee-VEH-nuhn) to stop the venom from doing its damage. To make antivenin, a snake handler forces a venomous snake to bite and release its venom into a container. When enough is collected, the venom is injected into a horse. The horse's body, which is much larger than a human's, fights off the venom by making special proteins, called antibodies. Laboratory technicians collect these antibodies to make antivenin. Usually, one type of antivenin is good at attacking only one type of venom, so a medical doctor tries to learn exactly what species of snake bit the patient before giving the antidote or cure.

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Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesVipers and Pitvipers: Viperidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Vipers, Pitvipers, And People - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE