DETECTIVES have been called in to investigate how a teenage boy was bitten on the hand by the world’s most venomous land snake despite it being thousands of kilometres from its natural environment.
The 17-year-old walked into Kurri Kurri Hospital yesterday afternoon after being bitten on the left index finger by an inland taipan, regarded as the most venomous land snake in the world which experts say has enough in its bite to kill 100 men.
Although he spoke briefly with police last night, his health remains a concern for specialists as the poison continues to wrack his body.
The teen was listed as being in a serious but stable condition in Calvary Mater Hospital this morning.
Dr Geoff Isbister, of Calvary Mater Hospital, said taipan bites could cause gradual paralysis and breathing difficulties if not treated.
It is understood the teen received anti-venom well inside the six-hour window needed.
Dr Isbister said he estimated that there would have been less than 10 cases across Australia of an inland taipan bite, and he was unaware of any fatalities.
The inland taipan is known colloquially as a "fierce snake", reaches up to 2.5 metres in length and is native to western NSW, south-eastern South Australia and southern parts of the Northern Territory.
Australian Reptile Park's head keeper of reptiles and spiders Julie Mendezona said the snake's venom is a neurotoxin that acts quickly.
"It can kill someone within maybe 45 minutes. There have been reports of people experiencing effects of venom within half an hour as well.
"It also contains an anticoagulant, which means it will interfere with the blood clotting, so therefore you can experience bleeding out as well."
Ms Mendezona said bites were quite rare because the snake's native areas were not highly populated.
"It's not known yet as to how the young man actually got hold of the snake. We can only speculate.
"You can actually keep venomous snakes under the correct licence.
"But a 17-year-old boy would not have the correct licence at all so he shouldn't have been touching it.
"You could probably speculate it was an illegal pet, but we can't know for sure at this stage."
Police continue to investigate how the teenager came to be bitten by the snake, which calls northern and inland Australia home and is not indigenous to the Hunter Valley.
It is understood the snake had been brought in to Kurri Kurri Hospital where it was identified by experts.
Police have ruled out any links with the break-in at Hunter Valley Zoo on Sunday night where thieves stole four pythons and two alligators.
No taipans were reported stolen from the zoo.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.