August 30, 2015
Snake bites are quite common and the Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital records at least 100 cases a month approximately and this totals to a whopping 12,000 cases a year, according to sources.
India is estimated to have the highest snakebite mortality in the world, according to the World Health Organisation. WHO estimates place the number of snakebites to be 83,000 per annum, with 11,000 deaths. However, steps can be taken to avoid death in case of snakebite.
“Rushing a person to the hospital is the best idea,” said an expert with Snake Bite Initiative of the Green Cross India in Coimbatore.
Most of the deaths occur due to the delay in bringing the victim to the hospital on time. Also, farmers are not well informed about the occupational risks and simple measures which can be taken to prevent snakebites.
“Wearing boots and carrying sticks and torches is a very good idea. Farmers should also be educated about snakebites. Lack of awareness about the issue is the single biggest hurdle when coming to treating people who have been bitten by a snake,” said the expert.
Much of the first aid currently administered is ineffective and dangerous. The procedures should include reassuring the victim, immobilizing the bitten limb, and transporting the victim to nearest treatment facility at the earliest.
There are 3000 species of snakes in the world, of which 236 species are in India and most of them are not venomous. Fear and panic are the biggest culprits, according to a paper published on snakebite management protocol.
There are 13 known species that are poisonous. Of these, four, namely common cobra (Naja naja), Russell’s viper (Dabiola russelii), saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus), and common krait (Bungarus caeruleus) are highly venomous and believed to be responsible for most of the poisonous bites in India.
“Snakes, including the Big Four, tend to thrive in human habitats that are filthy and rodent and rat-infested,” said N Sadiq Ali, founder trustee, Wildlife and Nature Conservation Trust. The trust has a tie-up with the health department and people can approach them for information on bites.
Sadiq Ali also said that the Salem Government Hospital is well-equipped to treat snakebites. “However, some people approach quakes and this leads to wasting of precious time. Most private nursing homes do not have anti venom,” he said.
One of the main problems in treating with anti-venom is that they are available only in diluted form. “Pharmaceutical companies are reaping it rich by producing diluted venom. We are fighting against it and have approached the government to change this,” Sadiq said.