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Doctors said the bite from the “five-step snake” is less deadly than commonly feared. Photo: Alamy

Chinese farmer cuts off finger after being bitten by snake. Doctors tell him he needn’t have bothered

  • Man took drastic step after being bitten by a ‘five-step snake’, which is believed to strike victims down after taking just a handful of steps
  • Medical staff say it was not necessary to take such a drastic measure – and because he left his finger behind when he went to hospital it can’t be reattached

A man in eastern China cut off his finger after being bitten by a poisonous snake – only to be told that there was no need to take such a dramatic measure to save himself.

The 60-year-old farmer named Zhang was cutting firewood near his mountain village in the Shangyu district of Zhejiang province when he was bitten on the finger by the snake, Hangzhou Daily reported.

He identified it as a particularly feared type of viper known locally as the “five-step snake” because of the belief that victims will not be able to walk more than five paces before dying, and chopped off the finger to prevent the venom from spreading.

He then wrapped up his hand in a cloth and made the 80km journey to Hangzhou, the nearest large city, where he was able to receive treatment.

However, he left the amputated finger on the mountainside, which meant doctors would have no chance of successfully reattaching it.

Doctors at the Hangzhou Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine told the newspaper there was no need to have taken such a drastic step because the snake is less lethal than commonly believed, but said his reaction to being bitten was a common one.

Ren Jinping, a doctor at the hospital, told Zhejiang television that when Zhang arrived at the hospital, he did not display any symptoms such as a headache, breathing difficulties or bleeding from the gums.

Doctors were unable to reattach the amputated finger. Photo: Weibo

Nevertheless, doctors gave him an anti-venom serum and cleaned the wound on his finger.

Zhang told the TV station this week that in April this year one of his neighbours had died after being bitten by a snake, however he said he is now recovering at home and his hand is recovering well.

Yuan Chengda, another doctor from the hospital, said it was a pity that Zhang would not be able to have the finger reattached.

“It’s not necessary at all [to cut it off]. The five-step snake is not that toxic,” Yuan told Hangzhou Daily.

The “five-step snake” is a species called Deinagkistrodon. While its venom can cause bleeding, pain and swelling, the belief that victims of bites will die within five paces is largely exaggerated.

Yuan continued that he often told his patients not to take such dramatic measures to save themselves after being bitten.

Since this year, the hospital has received 1,200 such patients, more than any other medical facility in Hangzhou. Doctors said before going to hospital, about 30 per cent of these patients had dealt with their injury in the wrong way.

“Some used knives to cut their fingers or toes, some used ropes or iron wires to bind the bitten limb tightly, and some even tried to destroy the poison in their body by burning their skin,” said Yuan. “When they arrive at the hospital, some people’s limbs are already showing signs of gangrene.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Cruellest cut as farmer chops off finger after snakebite