The visit by the members of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV) to Government Wenlock Hospital — the main healthcare support of the district — brings to light the shortage of anti-snake venom (ASV) at the hospital and primary health centres (PHCs).

Later, Shiv Kumar H.S., District Health Officer (DHO), too, admitted that there was a shortage at the taluk level. “We have asked for 500 units (of ASV) for Wenlock from Bangalore and 200 units from Davangere. There is shortage of supply from the State,” Dr. Kumar told The Hindu.

Not all snakebite cases required ASVs; 15 to 20 per cent cases required it. All victims of snakebites had to visit Wenlock for further treatment. He said PHCs kept five units, which was sufficient for emergencies.

However, Annaiah Kulal Kulthoor, Honorary Adviser, Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, alleged primary health centres (PHCs) did not have the antidote.

District Surgeon and Medical Superintendent H.R. Rajeshwari said Wenlock Hospital had been making requests for ASV but had not receiving them. However, as of now, the hospital has stocks and had not sent back any patient for lack of ASV, she said, after the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike raised the issue on Friday at the hospital. Dr. Rajeshwari showed a letter sent by the hospital to a pharmaceutical company requesting 3,000 units of ASV. The drug maker replied on Thursday saying, “ASV is not available.” The hospital also wrote to Karnataka Drug and Warehousing Society in Bangalore asking for 300 units of ASV. It is yet to receive a reply.

Dr. Rajeshwari said the hospital treated 60 to 70 patients from April to October. In November, it treated 28 snakebite victims. On Friday, Wenlock Hospital had four cases of snakebites. She said snakebites were common in Mangalore, and must be treated immediately. Snakebites could be of two types — neurophobic, when there is paralysis of the respiratory muscles; and haemophobic, when the blood is affected. Sundara Bhat of Father Muller Medical College (FMMC), who treats snakebite victims, said there was a problem with the availability of the antidote and there was a shortage one month ago when, he said, “We sent the patients off”. He said there is always higher number of snakebite victims during November and December and attributed the rise in cases to overgrown grass and paddy harvesting season.

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