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Snakebite awareness: A story from Tamil Nadu

  • Published at 07:38 am April 25th, 2017
  • Last updated at 07:44 am April 25th, 2017
Snakebite awareness: A story from Tamil Nadu
Snakebite poses a significant health risk worldwide and India is considered to be the country most affected. It has a considerable impact on rural population. The children in India’s rural areas are more affected by snakebites than adults. “Snakebites affect children more than adults because their body mass is smaller,” says Sakthivel Vaiyapuri from the Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research at the UK’s University of Reading. Vaiyapuri published a paper titled Snakebite and Its Socio-Economic Impact on the Rural Population of Tamil Nadu, India. According to Vaiyapuri's survey, almost 13-14% of children of 0-10 years in all the three villages of Tamil Nadu’s Erode district suffered snakebites. The numbers increased to almost 19% in the age group between 11-20 years. “The numbers are high among children. We never expected this to be as high as 14%,” Vaiyapuri was quoted by VillageSquare.in as saying. The major snakes responsible for most snakebite deaths in India include the Russell’s viper, the Saw-scaled viper, the Indian cobra, and the common krait. Snake envenomation in children has high morbidity and mortality rate, and is life threatening. This demands timely administration of Anti Snake Venom (ASV). In a paper titled anti-snake venom induced reactions among children with snake envenomation, Chengalpattu Medical College researcher V Poovazhagi found that children were commonly bit on foot with 55.5% having nocturnal bites. Further, children sleeping outside or lying on the floor indoors face a higher risk of snake bites. Poovazhagi said ASV is still the only treatment given for victims at government hospitals. “ASV is a life saviour right now. However, there is a need for venom detection kits, after which monovalent antivenom for the specific bite from a snake must be given,” he added. ASV is not available in the private hospitals easily. Robin Bernard, who runs the NGO National Snakebite Initiative in Erode, said: “An 18-month-old baby was bitten by Russell’s Viper, and her parents took her to a private hospital. After a few days with no proper treatment, she died.” Vaiyapuri said: “Children living in vulnerable areas must wear boots as they play in bushes. Awareness should happen at a school level where they must be taught not to pick rocks as snakes could be found under them.” He said parents and teachers should take a lead in imparting this information to children. “If people get access to simple things torches and tongs, it will prevent snakebite incidences,” Vaiyapuri added. He also stressed the need for government support in promoting research on snakebites.
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