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Snakebites are on the rise in India, why are we neglecting it

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New Delhi, June 20: Snakebite, which is a neglected public health concern, causes nearly 50,000 deaths in India every year. It is one of the neglected diseases that leads to significant mortality and mortality in India, but received little attention from the government.

Four snake varieties - Indian Cobra, Russel's viper, saw-scaled viper and Indian common krait are mostly responsible for most snakebite deaths. The currently available anti-venoms are effective for treating people bitten by these snakes.

Snakebites are on the rise in India, why are we neglecting it

Mitigation of snake bites and also ensuring the co-existence of snakes and people is a major challenge which is not taken in an efficient and all-encompassing manner across the country.

How big is the problem?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around five million snake bites occur each year, although venom is only injected in just over half of cases.

From blindness to amputations, hundreds of thousands of people are left with permanent disability after being attacked by snakes. The WHO describes such cases as among the most neglected tropical diseases.

Poor, rural populations are at particular risk from snake bites, as they often lack access to antidotes or may turn to traditional treatments in the absence of modern medical facilities.

Inadequate treatment is a key factor behind such a high death toll. Snakebite management is not given enough focus in the medical curriculum and health workers in remote areas are reluctant to treat snakebite cases as they are afraid of managing anti- -venom associated adverse reactions.

Many of the worst affected countries do not have their own facilities for producing antivenoms, which must be quickly administered to prevent or halt the damage caused by toxins.

India neglects snake bites despite 50,000 deaths

India is considered to be the global capital of deaths caused by snake bite. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has finally recognised it as a neglected tropical disease only in 2017, after dropping it as one in 2013, due to the efforts of various civil societies.

The poorest and the marginalised in the affected regions are the ones who bear the brunt of morbidity and mortality due to snakebites.People rush to local 'faith healers' for snake bites and these healers administer unscientific procedure by chanting mantras and beating the area of the bite with neem leaves.

Doctors at primary health centres in India are replaced every 6-12 months and have poor knowledge about, and experience in, management of snake bites. Many victims die on the journey to big, city-based hospitals.

This means that any intervention regarding snakebites needs to focus on strengthening the primary healthcare structures.

Global shortage

According to Wellcome, the world has less than half of the anti-venom it needs. And the anti-venom that is available in some places can often be ineffective because it isn't adapted to local species; anti-venoms have been developed for only about 60% of the world's venomous snakes.

This problem is particularly acute in Africa, where up to 90% of anti-venom is thought to be ineffective. This can make people distrustful, so they turn to local healers instead of hospitals.

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