Scorpionism in South Africa. A report of 42 serious scorpion envenomations

Muller G.J. (1993)

Article

The original publication is available at http://www.samj.org.za

Article

Forty-two cases of serious scorpion envenomation, of which 4 had a fatal outcome, are presented. The clinical profile, differential diagnosis and management of scorpionism are discussed. Most envenomations occurred in the summer months, peaking in January and February. An immediate local burning pain was the most prominent symptom. Systemic symptoms and signs developed within 4 hours of the sting in most instances, characterised by general paraesthesia, hyperaesthesia, muscle pain and cramps. Other striking features included dysphagia, dysarthria and sialorrhoea with varying degrees of loss of pharyngeal reflexes. The blood pressure and the temperature were often raised and the tendon reflexes increased, while motor power was often impaired. In a considerable number of patients the course was complicated by varying degrees of respiratory dysfunction, which tended to be more serious in children. The outstanding feature in children was an extreme form of restlessness characterised by excessive neuromuscular activity. Victims of scorpion sting, particularly in high risk localities, should be closely observed for 12-24 hours. Children and other high-risk patients should be hospitalised. All patients with symptoms and signs of systemic envenomation should receive antivenom. Parabuthus granulatus (Hemprich and Ehrenberg, 1828) has been identified as the most important venomous species in the western Cape. The antivenom is produced from the venom of the medically less important P. transvaalicus Purcell, 1899. A strong case can therefore be made for the inclusion of P. granulatus venom in the production of a polyvalent antivenom.

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