Snakebites have been causing death and morbidity across the world. A 2008-study puts the annual global snakebite statistics at 1.2 – 5.5 million snakebites; 421,000 – 1,841,000 envenomings and 20,000-94,000 deaths (Kasturiratne 2008). Another article suggests that the 5.5 million snake-bites result in around 400,000 amputations, and between 20,000-125,000 human deaths (World Report on Child Injury Prevention, WHO & UNICEF report).
India is the second most populous country in the world (1.2 billion people). It also has a diverse distribution of snakes across the main land and islands. Home to 276 species out of which 62 are of the venomous category.
India is also known as the “Death by Snakebite capital” of the world. In the absence of an accurate, updated and consistent data regarding human deaths in India, one relies on the Snakebite Mortality Survey by Mohaptra 2011 which puts the annual snakebite death count in India to 45,900. We believe that the actual death count is far larger than what the report suggests.
There are a lot of myths around snakes and snakebites and most victim’s family prefer to place their trust on the local faith healer to treat snakebites instead of going to a fully equipped hospital. In such a scenario, the actual number of people dying without reporting to a hospital may be quite substantial.
The big four, namely, Spectacled Cobra, Common Krait, Russell ’s viper and Saw Scaled Viper are found commonly in the rural agricultural landscape of India. It is therefore imperative that the people living in the rural belts come in contact with the big four more frequently and get bitten.
While snakebite is considered a poor man’s disease / problem, the cost of treating snakebites is exorbitant. Another angle to this issue is the scarcity of Anti Snake Venom (ASV) and the lack of well-equipped hospitals to treat snakebites in rural India. The unskilled doctors and health care workers at the PHC (Public Health Care Unit) level add to the woes of this extremely neglected area of health care management in India.
Snakebite Healing and Education Society (SHE) believes that this subject should be looked into with utmost seriousness by the Government of India. The annual rate of death by snakebite in India is far larger than deaths caused by diseases like Aids, Cancer, Tuberculosis, Cholera, Typhoid, Malaria, and Dengue.
As per the constitution of India, every Indian citizen has a right to life [article 21] and right to avail basic health care [article 41]. It is also the duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health [article 47]. SHE aims at engaging people and bringing together experts from varied fields to address this grossly neglected health issue. Our objective is to deliberate & propose ideas, to create awareness amongst the masses, train health care givers and basically provide a platform for everyone working in this field to unite in a unified voice and also motivate policy makers and bureaucrats to analyse this concern with a fresh perspective.
Founder – SHE-India.org