Did you know?
There are around thirty species of cobra in the world, with an additional three subspecies and three extinct species. They are found from south-east Asia through the Arab region into Africa. Ironically, the King Cobra is not a true cobra and is in its own genus Opiophagus – meaning “snake – eater”. The true cobras all fall under the genus Naja. Naja is a Sanskrit word for snake.
In Southern Africa there are eight cobra species that are all well adapted and occur from thick coastal forest in the east, into bushveld and throughout the dry regions of the west. In Southern Africa cobras are mostly absent from high altitude mountainous regions.
Lowvelders know the Mozambican spitting cobra. Spitting Cobras are equally comfortable at biting as well as spitting and if the attacker does not move away after being spat at, the snake will be quick to bite. Because cobras are good at warning people off with their large hoods and defensive displays, we do not see many bites. The exceptions are the Mozambique Spitting Cobra (Naja mossambica) and the Zebra Cobra (Naja nigricincta nicgricincta). These two spitting cobras are ferocious feeders and have the unfortunate habit of entering houses at night whilst hunting. When they come across a sleeping mammal (a human) they often mistake the person for a meal and give a solid bite and many people are bitten whilst asleep in their beds including children and even babies. These bites happen in summer.
The Spitting cobras have a predominantly cytotoxic venom, causing swelling, blistering, necrosis and tissue damage. There are few deaths from these snakes, but bites often cause severe tissue damage that may necessitate skin grafts and occasionally amputations.
With regards to spitting:
The first aid procedure for venom in the eyes requires you to flush all excess venom from your eyes, with any bland or neutral liquid. Water is the best option, but milk, beer or cold drink would suffice if water isn’t available. You want to rinse the eyes for about 15 – 20 minutes to flush away excess venom. A gently running tap is best for this procedure. The same technique must be used for pets that get venom in the eyes. The discomfort lasts for about two days and then subsides. Getting antibacterial cream and a slit-eye examination from a medical professional is advisable. Venom in the mouth or on the skin is not harmful and can be washed off.
Courtesy of The African Snakebite Institute