TORONTO, ON, Tuesday, June 25, 2019: The Toronto Zoo was contacted on Friday, June 7, 2019 at approximately 2:30 p.m. by the Ontario Poison Centre, which is located at SickKids Hospital, for assistance with an Ontario patient requiring treatment for a venomous snake bite. The patient, Shalaba Kalliath, was experiencing re-emerging symptoms following a snake bite she received while vacationing in Thailand. Although Ms. Kalliath had been treated in Thailand, upon returning to Ontario the symptoms returned and she was subsequently admitted to the Grand River Hospital in Kitchener.
As an accredited facility that is home to venomous snakes, the Toronto Zoo maintains an inventory of antivenom. Snake antivenom is imported through Health Canada’s Special Access Program for non-marketed drugs for the treatment of serious or life-threatening conditions and is stocked at the Toronto Zoo primarily to ensure the health and safety of staff.
In consultation with Ontario Poison Control, the Toronto Zoo’s Acting Manager Safety and Security, Lead Keeper of Reptiles and Amphibians and the Acting Director Wildlife Care and Welfare, determined the best course of action was to immediately send six vials of antivenom from the Toronto Zoo’s inventory to the Grand River Hospital. This was to ensure the patient received the quickest treatment possible as timely access to the most appropriate antivenom is essential for recovery. While the vials were being transported by priority courier to Kitchener, the Zoo’s Lead Keeper of Reptiles and Amphibians continued searching a specialized database to determine other locations in North America for an antivenom specific to a snake bite from a Malayan Pit Viper and another Ontario facility was identified and provided additional antivenom.
“I am very grateful to the Toronto Zoo for the quick delivery of the antivenom and for the great care I received at the Grand River Hospital,” said Shalaba Kalliath.
The Toronto Zoo has specific protocols in place to assist with the treatment of snake bites and providing required Antivenom to hospitals as we are one of only a few Canadian zoos to store antivenom onsite.
“When unique situations like this arise, the Toronto Zoo’s highly trained and professional staff is committed to providing assistance to help patients receive the best treatment possible,” said Dr. Andrew Lentini, Senior Director Wildlife Care and Science. “We were very pleased to receive an update that Ms. Kalliath is expected to make a full recovery.”