Over 3,000 people died due to snakebite between 2016-18


The figure provided is not even the tip of the iceberg, says expert

More than 3,000 people died of snakebite between 2016-18, data provided by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence to Parliament says.

The number of deaths in the past three years stood at 3,013 — 1,068 in 2016, 1,060 in 2017 and 885 in 2018. West Bengal with 609 deaths in the three years —138, 268 and 203 — alone accounted for 20% of the victims.

The data, tabled in the Lok Sabha on November 29 in response to a question by P.P. Chaudhary, also points at the high incidence of the cases — 1.78 lakh cases in 2016, 1.58 lakh in 2017 and 1.64 lakh in 2018. The other States with high number of deaths are Odisha with 365 (120, 147 and 98) and Madhya Pradesh 248 (113, 96 and 39). Andhra Pradesh recorded 230 deaths (28, 85 and 117) and Tamil Nadu 132 (44, 38 and 50).

The Ministry described snakebite as an “accidental/occupational hazard in tropical and subtropical countries, where rural populations are mainly affected”.

Jose Louise, who works with the Wildlife Trust of India, has along with other experts developed a web application called SERPENTS providing real time help to victims, location of hospitals and related information. He said the figures provided “are not even tip of the iceberg”.

“The actual number would be much higher. By collating newspaper reports of the past four months in certain States, I could find hundreds of deaths in only a few States,” Mr. Louise said.

Referring to a 10-year-old girl in Kerala who died of a snakebite in her school recently, he said it is good that people took note of it but such incidents happen everywhere. He said States like West Bengal are more prone to the problem as it does not produce anti-venom and sources it from Tamil Nadu.

‘Not trained enough’

Dayal Bandhu Majumdar, West Bengal’s State-level resource person for snakebite management and training, said the high number is because of high reporting of cases in the public hospitals of the State. A large number of deaths occurs because the primary health centres do not have anti-venom and doctors are not trained sufficiently to deal with bites, the doctor said. “In West Bengal since 2012 we have started in-service training of doctors to deal with bites. It should be tried across the country,” he said.

Dr. Majumdar said over 90% cases are because of the ‘Big Four’ species which are common cobra, Russell’s viper, saw-scaled viper and common krait.

In the reply, the Health Minister pointed out that there are five anti-venom manufacturing centres in the country.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 12:32:01 AM |

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