Snakes alive! Hong Kong hospital staff find 30cm reptile near operating theatre, with expert suspecting it sneaked in to avoid Super Typhoon Saola

Staff found a 30cm-long (12 inches) snake near an operating theatre in a Hong Kong hospital early on Friday, the Post has learned, with an expert suspecting the unstable weather caused by an approaching super typhoon forced the reptile to move indoors.

A source said the snake was spotted at an operating theatre at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam.

“This is a major breach of hospital hygiene standards,” the source said. “Snakes carry lots of bacteria and germs and can bite.”

A hospital spokeswoman confirmed that a 30cm-long snake was found in a corridor outside an operating theatre at around 2am on Friday.

Queen Mary Hospital is located near hills. Photo: Winson Wong

“The hospital housekeeping department immediately arranged manpower to catch and handle the snake. The relevant spot has also been thoroughly cleansed and disinfected,” the spokeswoman said in a reply to the Post.

No operation was being carried out in the theatre at the time and services were not affected.

The spokeswoman said the hospital was investigating the incident and would step up inspections to prevent similar occurrences.

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She added that the hospital had a raft of pest-prevention measures, including regular inspections at high-risk spots and control work.

The source noted that the corridor area was considered to be part of the operating theatre.

Hong Kong was bracing for Super Typhoon Saola, which was on track to brush past the city near midnight on Friday.

Victor Wong Long-yin, head of the adoption department of the Hong Kong Society of Herpetology Foundation, said he believed the reptile was the common wolf snake, a species often spotted on hiking trails and woods, especially on Hong Kong Island.

Wong said the species was non-poisonous, generally not aggressive and most active at night.

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He said the snake might have moved to a safer, indoor spot because of adverse weather.

“The snake might feel confused under the typhoon weather … and hoped to look for a safer environment,” he said.

“It is usually wetter and cooler under rainy weather, but snakes prefer a warm environment.

“The temperature in an operating theatre is usually controlled at a constant level. The temperature and humidity there might be more suitable for snakes.”

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In the wild, the snake might stay in water pipes but they could be filled with rain, he said, explaining that it could also have gone indoors to hunt geckos, a common prey.

Dr David Lung, president of the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association, said it would be difficult to completely prevent snakes and other pests from getting into the Pok Fu Lam hospital given its location.

“Queen Mary Hospital is located near hills. There could be snakes in the wild sneaking in. It is difficult to totally prevent them,” Lung said, adding that hospitals should have regular pest control.

He said the incident was likely to be a one-off.


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