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Darwin man delays getting sea snake bite treated to go fishing and narrowly avoids amputation

ABC News logo ABC News 9/03/2018 Emily JB Smith
Peter Davis in hospital with a bandaged finger after he almost lost it following a bite from a sea snake. © Provided by ABC News Peter Davis in hospital with a bandaged finger after he almost lost it following a bite from a sea snake.

Peter Davis's love of fishing almost cost him a finger.

The Darwin man was bitten by a sea snake at the beginning of what promised to be an excellent fishing trip — so rather than seek help he just continued fishing.

Two days later he was in hospital being told by a surgeon he could lose it.

Speaking to ABC's Tales from the Tinny, Mr Davis described making his first mistake after snagging the snake on his fishing rod: by turning his back on it as he looked for a pair of scissors to cut the line.

"While I had my back turned, he turned he rolled up the line. I felt him hit me on the hand," he said.

The next afternoon his hand started to throb.

"Turns out it did bite me," Mr Davis said.

Two days later he went to hospital, and was kept there on a drip for two afternoons in a row.

"They reckon the teeth on them can be just as dangerous as the venom, just from the infection, which is what I got. I didn't get no venom," he said.

The surgeon told him the finger may need to be amputated if the infection didn't stop spreading, but luckily it was saved.

"Left a big hole in my finger, but it's on the heel now," he said.

Despite the injury, Mr Davis retained fond memories of the fishing trip.

"We got something like five [barra] over 90 and a metrey, so yeah it was a great trip," Mr Davis said.

"Once we got over the broken spring and hung up on the boat ramp, everything was cruisy. Weather was great, fishing was good."

Lisa Fitzgerald saw Mr Davis's story on the ABC Tales from the Tinny Facebook page, and sent in a photo of the sea snake.

"Hubby hooked one two weekends ago — we cut line — wasn't mucking around with it," she commented.

Sea snakes venom 'quite potent'

According to honorary fellow at Charles Darwin University Dr Michael Guinea "not mucking around" was a good idea.

"These snakes are really quite potent in their poison," Dr Guinea said.

"Equally poisonous if not more poisonous as things such as our tiger snakes and western browns we have around Darwin where people die almost annually from bites.

"If you've got a sea snake on the line the main thing you've got to do is look after yourself."

While the snake was rarely aggressive underwater, if caught by a fisherman he said cutting the line could be the safest option.

Anyone who was bitten by a sea snake should bandage the wound and immobilise it, before seeking medical attention within 24 to 48 hours.

Dr Guinea said sometimes the symptoms display very quickly and sometimes you end up with a blank bite.

"You're never very sure whether venom has entered the body," he said.

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