Snake bites Entebbe Airport staff on duty

A snake on Sunday night slithered from the overgrown sides of Entebbe International Airport into the Control Tower building and reportedly bit Aeronautical Information Management Officer (AIMO) Jonathan Kayizzi.

Mr Vianney Luggya, the spokesperson of Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) which manages the airport, said the incident was “suspected snake bite”.
“It was not a snake bite per se. It was just suspected to be one and there was no confirmation. There are symptoms that someone who has been bitten by a snake presents,” he said, adding, “The doctors checked all the symptoms and the after-effects that a person experiences [after a snake bite] and this was not the case in this particular matter.”

Despite UCAA spokesman christening the incident as a “suspected snake bite”, our investigations show that an official who filed a 4:36am ‘situational report’ to supervisors categorised it as “snake bite in comm inner room” (communication inner rooms).

Mr Kayizzi, the staff reportedly attacked by the reptile, handles sensitive operations for airport and flight safety, which colleague identified to include receiving flight plans, disseminating information on flights, issuing Notice to Airmen (Notams) when required, and updating aeronautical information publications.
The aeronautical information management officers sit in the Communications Office within the airport Control Tower.

In an update shortly before 9pm, UCAA Spokesman Luggya said Mr Kayizzi was not bitten by a snake and that doctors administered anti-venom to him as a precaution.
“A person bitten by snake would normally have two prick, but this one had one. Secondly, there was no swelling, no inflammation, no pain when you press the area and the skin wasn’t reddish, which are the basic symptoms of a snake bite,” he noted in a WhatsApp message.

He did not provide the time within which the examination for his report was done. Internal communication about the incident seen by this newspaper indicate that Mr Kayizzi’s wound was first dressed at Kazuri Airport Medical Centre, a stone-throw away, before he was given pain killers and a drug to reduce the swelling at bite spot once booked at the Victoria Medical Centre.

In addition, a senior airport official identified as Mr Fred Owomukama took a black stone to the hospital at about 3am to help suck out more poisonous effects of the reported snake bite, meaning a later diagnosis would find no swelling, pain or reddish due to the back-to-back first-aid interventions.

The incident which sparked panic among other staff, and a distress night call to both Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (Uwec) located in Entebbe and Uganda Wildlife Authority, happened at around 2:30am, according to multiple sources.

Mr Kayizzi immediately raced to the airport’s area control centre with a bleeding left thump that he told officials he believed was a result of a snake bite, but the airside team that was contacted was not forthcoming with personnel and requested ambulance.
Volunteer colleagues turned to the bird hazard unit, but its staff said they had no expertise in handling the reptile, referring to Uwec for help.

A highly-placed source said in the absence of an ambulance, Mr Kayizzi was placed in his private car and taken to Kazuri Airport Medical Centre where his wound was dressed before relocation to Victoria Medical Centre in Kitoro which, like the nearby Entebbe Grade B government hospital, had no anti-venom.

Uwec where staff, among others, keep snakes in its zoo in the dead of the night also said it had no stock of anti-venom. Personnel from UWA, who arrived at the scene of the incident accompanied by Birds Hazard staff, said they had no expertise in handling snakes and, following a brief inspection during which they saw no serpent, departed.

This was more than half-an-hour after Mr Kayizzi, by then admitted to Victoria Medical Centre where he was given pain killers and a drug to reduce swelling from the bite spot, reported that a snake had sunk its fangs in his flesh.

Sources briefed on the incident told this newspaper yesterday that staff on duty at the airport reached out to Mr Fred Owomukama, the OC for Air Navigation Services, who promptly took a black stone for neutralising the snake venom.

According to information gleaned from the agakhanacademies.org website, the stone is placed on the skin and a small cut is made on the bitten area until blood oozes out.
“The stone then absorbs the poison through capillary action reducing the fatality of a snake bite,” an article on the side reads in part.

By this time, Dr Rachael Mbabazi from Uwec zoo advised the patient to be transported St Francis Hospital Nsambya, some 40 kilometres away in Kampala, which reportedly had stocked anti-venom.

Her colleague, veterinary surgeon Dr Victor Musiime, whose Linkedin profile shows he specialises in zoo and wildlife veterinary medicine, surfaced at Victoria Medical Centre around 5am --- roughly three hours after the reported snake bite --- and administered to Mr Kayizzi a polyvalent anti-venom.
He reported improvement afterwards.

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