Other States

Coronavirus facilities will help Odisha’s snakebite victims, say experts

Odisha government has set up two COVID-19 dedicated hospitals with a capacity of 650 beds in Bhubaneswar.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Odisha government’s move to add ventilator facilities to treat COVID-19 patients is likely to provide a much needed weapon for another serious threat — snakebite.

Once the coronavirus scare fades away, the ventilators will surely prove to be a key life-saving asset for hundreds of people who die due to snakebites every year.

According to Pratyush Mohapatra, a scientist with Zoological Survey of India, toxin injected during snakebite affects the nervous system and the bite becomes fatal especially in the case of bites by the common krait in which no local symptoms are detected.

“If not treated immediately, victims may die from respiratory failure. It is often found that absence of ventilator facility in district level government health institutions increases chances of fatality in snakebites,” said Dr. Mohapatra.

Although snakebite was declared as a State-specific disaster in 2015, health infrastructure was not upgraded to deal with the threat.

Snakebites have claimed 3,565 lives in Odisha in the past five years. In 2019-20 alone, as many as 723 persons died from snakebites. The year 2018-19 had worse numbers with 913 snakebite deaths.

“Acute neuromuscular paralysis, a type of neurotoxicity, is caused due to bite of cobras and kraits. Mechanical ventilation, intensive care and anti-venom treatment with prolonged hospital stays are key to snakebite treatment,” said the ZSI scientist.

Despite recording high snakebite deaths, the government had never added ventilator facilities as well as manpower trained in handling ventilators in government health centres below the sub-divisional level hospitals.

Now, as part COVID-19 pandemic response, the State government has ramped up ventilator facilities in government healthcare institutions.

“Prior to COVID-19 pandemic, we had 297 ventilators available in the State. Now, we have already added 57 while ventilator facilities have significantly improved in private sector,” said Bijay Mohapatra, State Director of Health Service.

During past one month, the government has created 5,486 beds in 34 COVID-19 only hospitals. As many as 352 ICU beds are available. Many of these ICUs have ventilator facilities.

As the monsoon is little over a month away, people in rural areas will become more vulnerable to snakebite. As per an estimate, about 85% snakebite deaths take place between May and October.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 9:18:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/coronavirus-facilities-will-help-odishas-snakebite-victims-say-experts/article31439010.ece

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