Last year, at least 300 persons were reported to have died of snake bites in the State, and around 7,000 others treated for the same in government hospitals.

Though various wings of the health department collect information on snake bite victims, the State does not have a comprehensive registry to fall back on.

Director of public health K. Kulandaisamy said the directorate has proposed to start a registry.

In December of last year alone, hospitals under the directorate of medical services recorded around 1,427 cases of snakebites and four deaths. The other deaths were reported from primary health centres, data collected from health agencies revealed.

Among the government hospitals, a larger number of cases were reported from Cuddalore, Erode, Thanjavur, the Nilgiris and Villupuram. The Cuddalore government hospital treated 126 persons, and Villupuram and the Nilgiris reported 104 persons were treated for snakebites.

Private hospitals in the suburbs said they get around 100 patients in a year. Doctors say they rely on the information provided by patients. A doctor in a private hospital said patients who can describe the snake help make the path of treatment clearer. “Patients also sometimes bring the snakes for the doctor to identify,” said P. Sampath Kumar, who is attached to Sri Ramachandra Hospital, Porur.

According to him, India has around 3,000 varieties of snakes, including sea snakes.

Snakebites are divided into two categories — one that leads to neuro-toxicity, affecting the nervous system and resulting in death, and the other that causes a bleeding injury at the site of bite and if left untreated results in internal bleeding leading to organ failure and death.

The cost of treatment is prohibitive, forcing people in and around his village to seek native doctors, said T.N. Shanmuganathan, a retired school headmaster of Tiruporur. “Farmers fail to take precautions and become victims. Anti-venom is expensive, with each dose costing as much as Rs. 2,800. Sometimes people require several shots and the entire treatment could cost around Rs. 30,000. Native doctors treat the bite with juices extracted from plants. People die when they get delayed treatment,” Mr. Shanmuganathan said.

S. Raghunanthanan, professor of medicine at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital that receives around 500 to 600 patients annually, said regular training in treatment of snakebites is provided to doctors. “Treatment in any government hospital across the State is the same,” he said. “There is no shortage of anti-venom as we get the vials from the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation,” he added.

Private hospitals buy the anti-venom vials either from TNMSC or from manufacturers. Doctors say a comprehensive registry would also provide epidemiological data.

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