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Snakebites kill 58,000; govt seeks national action plan

NEW DELHI : Given the large number of snakebites in India, the Union health ministry plans to launch a dedicated national programme for the prevention and control of snakebite.

Venomous snakebite is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality, especially in the hinterlands, affecting mostly males between 20 and 55 years of age.

Recently, a national consultation meeting was held on the issue by the directorate general of health services that was also attended by the ministries of animal husbandry, agriculture, tribal affairs, central zoo authorities, government vaccine manufacturers, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), NITI Aayog, the National Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

According to ICMR, snakebites cause 58,000 deaths annually in India and 232,000 people every year suffer from significant disability because of it. India is home to more than 300 species of snakes of which about 60 are venomous or mildly venomous. Four major venomous species are Russell’s Viper, Indian Cobra, Common Krait, and Saw-Scaled Viper. Snakebite is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) and developing and tropical countries account for around 95% of the total snakebites of the world.

“Although, there is a standard treatment guideline for snakebite cases published by the health ministry, its implementation is very poor both at private and government health facilities. Almost 80% of snakebite mortality happens outside the hospital because of lack of awareness and delay in reaching hospital and because people opt for traditional therapies. We gave our input from a research perspective on snakebite, training and capacity building and what kind of infrastructure is required to deal with such cases,” said Dr Joy Kumar Chakma, ICMR’s nodal scientist doing research on snakebites.

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