News / Health

Threat of Fatal Snakebites Often Overlooked

New strategies improve patient treatment

Western Russell's Viper, photographed in Hyderabad, India, is among the deadliest of snake species.
Western Russell's Viper, photographed in Hyderabad, India, is among the deadliest of snake species.

Multimedia

Audio
Art Chimes

Neglected tropical diseases such as dengue, leishmaniasis, and trachoma are getting more attention these days, but other health threats are almost completely off the radar.

One example is the deadly toll taken by venomous snakes, which was discussed by experts at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene meeting in Philadelphia.

"Snakebite envenoming is a very acute and life threatening and complex condition,"  says Ulrich Kuch of the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Frankfurt, Germany, who co-chaired a symposium on snakebite on Dec. 5.

The extent of the problem is a little unclear. A 2008 study found poisonous snakes cause as many as 94,000 deaths a year. But Kuch says that may understate the problem.



"New numbers from very rigorously designed and well-conducted studies in India and Bangladesh have come up with numbers that suggest that the real death toll of snakebites at the global level is much higher."

Many people die needlessly from the bites of poisonous snakes, Kuch says, because many snakebite victims consult traditional healers or otherwise fail to seek medical attention.

"Either because there is no treatment available, or because health care staff do not know how to treat snakebites, or because transportation to get to a health facility is not available or too expensive."

There is no generic antivenom used to treat snakebite. A patient must be treated with an antivenom specific to the each particular species of snake. The life-saving antidote is often expensive, but cost - and availability - vary widely.

"For example, antivenoms in India, they are really not expensive. But you do have an issue of distribution and of training people in treating snakebites. In other countries, such as Laos for example and many other Asian and African countries, there's no antivenom at all."

Despite the challenges, Kuch says the atmosphere at the symposium on snakebites was positive.

Because using the right antivenom is critical, rapid diagnosis tests are being developed to help health workers determine which to administer. The tests are designed to be used in poor, rural areas.

Kuch also mentioned the experience of a community-based clinic in Damak, Nepal, which showed it is possible to save lives by treating snakebites locally with specially-trained paramedics, working in a facility that treats only snakebites.

"And they have been trained to recognize all the symptoms of snakebite envenoming and to give the proper treatment for that. And most of the patients they receive can be cured in that low-tech facility. Because snakebites are so common in this village, they treat more than 1,000 patients each year."

Volunteer motorcyclists can quickly bring snakebite victims from the surrounding area for treatment. The successful program has now expanded to other villages, and may be expanded to India as well.  

You May Like

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurdish Leader: Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid