India is the top country when it comes to snake envenoming, with around 60,000 people being bitten each year. Many Indian agricultural workers are specifically affected more than the rest of the population. Common practices such as working barefoot while harvesting and planting in the fields lead to higher risks of being bitten. Other causes of envenoming come from living conditions in developing parts of the country. Unsafe living conditions, outside restrooms and suboptimal sleeping arrangements can also invite the unwelcomed visitors.
Lack of Treatment
Snakebite envenoming in India can cause long-term complications in victims such as deformities, visual impairment, renal complications, psychological distress, amputations and even death. Around 46,900 people die due to venomous snakebites in India annually. These numbers are colossal, especially when compared with countries like the United States and Australia, which report 10 to 12 deaths each year due to venomous snakebites.
Most deaths from poisonous snake bites are preventable and can be mitigated through community awareness. Unfortunately, very few cases of snakebite envenoming in India from 2000 to 2019, were treated by government hospitals. Traditional faith healers are the ones who often examine snakebite patients. Snakebites are likely to be the most neglected tropical disease according to Study Protocols for Knowing the Incidence of Snakebites.
Snakebites are generally not given proper care and treatment because it is considered to be “a poor man’s disease,” mainly inflicting impoverished farmers and their families in rural villages, Kempaiah Kemparaju, a biochemist at the University of Mysore in India who studies snake venom told Nature.com.
The Registrar General of India (RGI) oversees the world’s largest study of mortality in India due to snakebite. The study explains real data on snakebite cases, mortality, the number of deaths and the socioeconomic impact of snakebites. This study will help better understand and regulate the control of anti-venoms and the protocol of their distribution in a country. The study claims. “The epidemiology and economic data on snakebite [are] also essential for advocacy, recognition and fund allocation by the Government for the mitigation of snakebite in India.”
It is rather inexpensive and economical to spread awareness of best practices for those at higher risk of snake envenomation. Christian Medical College (CMC) has a poison control center located in Vellore, South India. The center offers resources to the surrounding village communities for preventing snakebite envenoming in India and performing first aid. A team of nurse educators, medical trainees and doctors visit the homes of villages of patients and assess the factors that increase the risks of encountering a snake bite. This is an opportunity to provide the village with important information on how to avoid snakebites.
The CMC also hosts an annual Snake Bite Survivor meeting where survivors can learn from their peers and their personal experiences. Since 2019, the meeting has taken place virtually, therefore, allowing people from all over India to be able to participate.
– Kiara Finch