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Coral snake bites boy on school bus

Published Sep. 27, 2005

The eighth-grader brought the snake in a book. It slithered away as he snoozed.

A 14-year-old toting a coral snake to school in a book was bitten by the venomous serpent as it escaped while he slept on the bus to class Thursday.

But eighth-grader Anthony Seddon didn't fess up to being bitten, or that he'd brought the eastern coral snake on board, until hours later when his hand and arm began swelling.

The bus was en route from northeast Polk County to Roosevelt Academy of Leadership and Applied Technology in Lake Wales when a commotion broke out, said Larry Hermes, a safety specialist for Polk County schools.

When students reported a snake on the bus shortly after 7 a.m., driver Sherry Dorsey thought they were kidding, Hermes said.

Then she saw the colorful 2-foot snake in the aisle.

Dorsey ordered students to get their feet off the floor and up onto seats, then pulled into Dundee Ridge Middle School for an unscheduled stop.

About 20 students climbed across seats to the emergency exits before a custodian at the school killed the snake.

Hermes said none of the students reported being bitten or admitted bringing the snake onto the bus.

"We didn't know how the snake got on the bus or if there might be others," said Fred Murphy, director of transportation for the school district.

The bus was quarantined, and another bus was used to complete the trip to school.

Murphy said workers were preparing to dismantle the bus to look for other snakes when the boy admitted he had carried the snake on the bus.

Hermes said the boy found the snake in the family swimming pool the night before and carried it on the bus in a loosely closed book.

The boy told school officials the snake bit him on his right ring finger as it got loose.

The eighth-grader was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center where he was treated with nine vials of antivenin. He was released Friday afternoon.

Bruce Shwedick, the curator of animals at Cypress Gardens and a specialist in snakes, was called to the school after Seddon told a teacher of the bite, about two hours after it occurred. Principal Ron Riser said he called the middle school in Dundee to have the snake's carcass located and compared to a picture in a library book before calling Shwedick.

The eastern coral snake is found in all parts of Florida.

The red, black and yellow rings of the snake often make them attractive to children.

The coral snake is similar in appearance to the scarlet king snake and the scarlet snake but is distinguished by the order of the colored rings

If the red rings touch the yellow rings, the snake is a coral; if red touches black, it is not poisonous.

Shwedick said the time gap between when Seddon was bitten and when the bite was reported was his biggest concern.

Bite victims could "die in three to five hours, or show no symptoms at all for six to 10 hours, then die," he said.