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    Build Awareness and Equip PHCs with Region-specific Antivenoms: Public Health Experts at Nat’l Snakebite Summit

    Published on September 20, 2021

    · Availability of dialysis facility and antivenoms are important as much as ambulance facility to take the affected person to the healthcare provider.

    · Need snakebite-specific modules for PHCs as well as a coagulation lab at that level.

    · Treatment protocols should be according to the region and West Bengal and Gujarat are working on regional antivenoms.

    · Between 2000 and 2019, India recorded 1.2 million snakebite deaths with an average of 58,000 deaths every year.

    New Delhi: Public health experts, policymakers and administrators gathered at the maiden National Snakebite Awareness Summit, organised by the leading health awareness institution Integrated Health & Wellbeing (IHW) Council, have underlined the need to spread awareness on means to prevent attacks by snakes as well as gather adequate data to formulate the right and better ways to treat the cases at the primary health centers. The summit was held on the eve of the International Snakebite Awareness Day, observed on 19 September every year.

    “I did my MBBS from a rural medical college and no day was spent without a snakebite. There is an inadequacy of antivenom supply and we need expertise in administering antivenom – following the protocol is important but we may need protocols according to the region. We need to make people aware of what to do if a snake bites them – take a picture of the snake as all snakes are not poisonous and identifying the snake is important for right treatment. We have seen so many deaths caused by shock, panic, and renal failure after snakebite. Availability of dialysis facility and antivenoms are important as much as ambulance facility to take the affected person to the healthcare provider,” says Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan, Hon’ble Governor of Telangana and Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry.

    Suggesting ways for prevention, Dr Soundararajan says, “Walking in accumulated rainwater can be dangerous. We have seen a lot of cases where people dealing with snake carcasses were poisoned through the teeth of dead snakes. Avoid sleeping in areas where things are stored and use mosquito nets to be safe from both mosquitoes and snakes.”

    Ms Vinita Srivastava, Advisor for Tribal Health Cell, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, says, “There is no mechanism of management in the peripheral system to treat snakebites – doctors and paramedical staff need to learn snakebite management but there are no modules. We need snakebite-specific modules for PHCs as well as a coagulation lab at that level. Besides, we need to include tribal healers who have the knowledge of traditional medicine and medicinal plants.”

    “Snakebite should be a notifiable disease and industry can bring in easy solutions but we need help from policymakers in doing that. We are working with the Rajasthan government on regional antivenoms,” says Mr Vishwanath Swarup, COO, Bharat Serums & Vaccines Limited.

    “In India, there is 1 in 250 chances of death in case of a snakebite in the productive life years. The WHO calls for reducing snakebite morbidity and mortality by 2030 and for that India needs to focus on proper gathering of data – many cases go unreported,” says Dr Pritam Roy, WHO Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Co-Ordinator in India and Trainer for Snake Bite Management Protocol.

    “Snakebite is a health emergency but most of the PHCs do not store antivenoms. West Bengal and Gujarat states are working on regional antivenoms to address this,” says Dr Priyanka Kadam, President, Founder, Snakebite Healing and Education Society.

    Highlighting the lesser-known chronic aspects of snakebite, Dr Soumyadeep Bhaumik, Co-Head, Meta-research and Evidence Synthesis Unit, The George Institute for Global Health, India, says, “Studies from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka shows that almost half of the survivors of snakebite can experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – the National Health Mission (NHM) must look into it. We need more localized surveys as preventing snakebite will bring equity – most affected people include children working with parents on fields, villagers and tribals.”

    “In the 20-year period from 2000 to 2019, the country recorded 1.2 million snakebite deaths with an average of 58,000 deaths every year. As much as 97 per cent of these deaths happened in villages and more than half of the dead were men in their most productive years. There is no wonder that the World Health Organization has added snakebite and the resultant envenoming to its priority list of neglected tropical diseases,” says Dr Nalini Kaushik, Principal Consultant, Policy Advocacy & Government Affairs, IHW Council.