More than 1500 scorpion species exist worldwide, with a few scorpion species potentially lethal to humans. About 1 million stings annually result in >3000 deaths, but the incidence and mortality vary greatly by species and location. Physicians working internationally must recognize that resulting toxidromes vary significantly by region. Over the past few decades, South America has reported relatively few deaths and low case mortality rates from envenomations. In Guyana, a small tropical country on its northeast coast, they have been extremely rare. A sudden fatal case cluster suggests an extension of the black scorpion's habitat, an increase in venom toxicity, or both.
During a 12-month period, Guyana experienced 3 deaths, including 1 adult, from black scorpion (Tityus obscurus) envenomation. The 30-year-old man and 2 young children experienced the same symptom complex, initially appearing well except for pain at the sting site. They soon developed persistent emesis and leukocytosis. All were flown from remote jungle areas to the only public tertiary care hospital where they received maximal available medical support. They gradually developed profound cardiopulmonary failure requiring ventilation and, eventually, dysrhythmias. None had hyperglycemia or pancreatitis, and they had no neurologic abnormalities until developing progressive obtundation immediately before intubation.
Why Should an Emergency Physician be Aware of This?
Scorpion envenomation symptoms, outcomes, and treatment are geographically specific. Patients benefit when clinicians recognize the worldwide variations in grading systems and treatment options, which we discuss and compare to our patients.
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Published online: September 26, 2019
Accepted: July 18, 2019
Received in revised form: July 4, 2019
Received: April 20, 2019
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