LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Central Florida has received a specially trained task force that could save people who have been bitten by a venomous snake.
The Venom One team is based in South Florida, but a new Venom Two snake bite response unit is now based in Lake County.
Firefighters have been trained to handle nonvenomous snakes and to educate the public about them.
They've also been trained to respond to venomous snake bites, and they're equipped with anti-venom.
"Time is tissue," said Dan Miller, of Lake County Fire Rescue said. "The faster you can recognize what type of snake it was, the faster you can get the correct anti-venom to the patient, and ultimately they'll have a better outcome."
LCFR trained with the Venom One team -- one of the nation's largest anti-venom banks -- for one year before forming the Venom Two team.
"It's a benefit to the citizens all over," Miller said. "We're four hours closer to the rest of the state than Venom One, so we help them. We can get the anti-venom to the people in need a lot quicker."
The Venom Two team said it will respond wherever it's needed, be it Central Florida or elsewhere.
Dr. Benjamin Abo, medical director of both venom teams, said the Venom Two team was recently used when inclement weather prevented the aerial delivery of anti-venom.
"I had a cobra bite come to me from Tallahassee, and cobras are not indigenous to Florida. Not many places have the anti-venom," Abo said. "So we were able to get some anti-venom, but only part of the dose from another venom bank. Venom One was able to meet Venom Two part way, and we could continue delivering it."
Although firefighters will respond to emergencies and capture problematic snakes, they said they aren't in the wildlife-trapping business.
Officials said they'll carry anti-venom for native venomous species only at first, but they could eventually expand their bank to include nonnative species.
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