Reptiles that Bite and Plants that Slice: Coding the Everglades

An idyllic natural wonderland located on the southern-most tip of the state, the Florida Everglades is under an hour’s drive directly west from the Miami Beach Convention Center. The Everglades is an unparalleled subtropical wilderness brimming with beautiful wetland landscapes and rare plant and animal species. That said, even the most avid nature enthusiast should heed the warnings posted to the National Park Service’s Everglades “Safety” webpage, which offers tips to visitors on just which of those rare animals and plants to beware. While the Everglades can be a safe place to visit, the park service website also it makes clear it is surely a place that should be respected. Those who don’t heed warnings could end up the unfortunate recipient of the following ICD-10 codes—curated here with the specific dangers of the Everglades in mind.

Alligators

A main attraction of the Everglades—its abundant alligators and crocodiles—can also be its most dangerous. While alligators and crocodiles are typically wary of humans, the National Park Service recommends keeping a “safe and respectable distance” of at least 15 feet away from them. “If an animal is hissing, you are too close,” the park service website says. “Although they may look like a statue at times, they are alive and alert and can react lighting fast. Touching an alligator is never a good idea.”1 Signs throughout the park warn of the fines and dangers associated with feeding alligators, an act that makes the animals associate humans with food and causes them to become aggressive.

  • Alligator bite, initial encounter—W58.01XA
  • Crocodile bite, initial encounter—W58.011
Spiders

More than 20,000 spiders live on the two million acres of the Florida Everglades, and several native spider species are poisonous. Two of the most common poisonous spiders in the Everglades are the black widow spider and the red widow spider. While widow spider bites can be deadly, proper medical treatment can typically cure their powerful and painful bites.2

  • Toxic effect of venom of black widow spider, accidental/unintentional—T63.311A
Snakes

There are 27 known species of snakes that live in the Everglades, with four of them venomous and dangerous to humans—the diamondback rattlesnake, the dusky pygmy rattlesnake, the coral snake, and the cottonmouth snake. The latter snake is the only semiaquatic viper species, and is known for being aggressive and inflicting bites that are extremely painful and potentially fatal.3

  • Nonvenomous snake bite—W59.11XA
  • Venomous other North and South American snake bite—T63.061A
  • Rattlesnake bite—T63.011A
  • Coral snake bite—T63.021A
Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are plentiful in the Everglades due to the abundance of stagnant water in which to lay their eggs. According to a Sun-Sentinel newspaper article, “the alligator is not the most vicious animal in the Everglades—it’s the mosquito. These pesky things will eat you alive, especially if you come in the summer.”4 In addition to being annoying, mosquitoes can also carry diseases like Zika and West Nile Virus.

  • Zika disease—A92.5
Poisonous and Hazardous Plants

The Everglades’ ecosystems support a variety of plant life, including some that cause reactions to human skin.5 Poison ivy (pictured at right) can grow as a plant, vine, or shrub and is common in the Everglades, especially in sunny patches of forested areas. Poisonwood is a tree or shrub found in the Everglades which, if touched, will cause an itchy, painful, and blistering rash. Sawgrass is a common plant in the Everglades known for extremely sharp fine points running along its leaves like sharp teeth. This makes the plant dangerous for people to walk near or grab onto.6

  • Infected with poison ivy—L23.7
  • Allergic dermatitis due to plants (i.e., poison ivy, sumac, etc.)—L23.7
  • Contact (cut) with nonvenomous plant thorns and spines and sharp
    leaves (like sawgrass)—W60.XXXA 
Notes
  1. US National Park Service. “Everglades National Park Florida – Safety.” August 9, 2016. www.nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/safety.htm.
  2. Kaine, Rachael. “Spiders in the Everglades.” Mom.me. https://animals.mom.me/spiders-everglades-5471.html.
  3. American Bird. “Venomous Snakes of the Everglades.” April 13, 2015. american-bird.com/venomous-snakes-everglades/.
  4. Sun-Sentinel. “What you need to know about mosquitoes.” www.sun-sentinel.com/travel/sfl-gladesmosquitoes-story.html.
  5. US National Park Service. “Everglades National Park Florida – Safety.”
  6. Lacoma, Tyler. “What is Sawgrass?” Sciencing. April 24, 2017. https://sciencing.com/sawgrass-5382252.html.

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