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How Doctors Treat The 5,000 Scorpion Stings That Are Reported In Arizona Each Year

Bark scorpions are abundant in Mexico and Arizona, and limited populations exist in neighboring states. In Arizona, the bark scorpion is most abundant in the southern half of the state, as this species is not capable of surviving the higher altitude areas of northern Arizona. The only northern bark scorpion habitat in the state exists at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and this species is abundant in and around Las Vegas, southern New Mexico and southwest Texas as well. The bark scorpion is the only scorpion species in the United States that can inflict medically significant stings. The venom produced by this species can be fatal in rare cases, but only four deaths have occurred over the past 11 years as a result of bark scorpion stings in the US. This is not the case in Mexico where bark scorpions kill 1,000 people every year. The reason for this disparity is largely due to the lack of available health care in highly-populated rural areas of Mexico. However, considering that 5,000 bark scorpion envenomation cases are reported in Arizona each year, one would expect a higher fatality rate in the state. Luckily, all hospitals and health care facilities in Arizona are well stocked with bark scorpion antivenom, so when potentially fatal stings do occur, an antidote is not far away.

When bark scorpion sting victims report to an emergency room, doctors first apply ice to the sting wound while also administering acetaminophen or narcotic painkillers to reduce the pain. Serious allergic reactions to bark scorpion stings, such as anaphylactic shock, are rare, but if a doctor finds that a sting victim has a history of allergic reactions to arthropod venom, then measures are taken to prevent the victim from experiencing anaphylactic shock, which is the cause of most bark scorpion fatalities. The University of Arizona keeps an abundance of antivenom vials available for residents who sustain bark scorpion stings. In order to prevent severe systemic symptoms, antivenom should be administered within one hour following a bark scorpion sting. Bark scorpion antivenoms are somewhat controversial, as the US Food and Drug Administration has not approved of its use. This prevents bark scorpion antivenom from being transported over state lines, therefore, Arizona is the only US state where bark scorpion antivenom is readily available. In many cases, doctors spend time observing the patient for severe systemic symptoms before administering antivenom.

If you were to sustain a bark scorpion sting, would you want antivenom to be administered as soon as possible?

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