An average of 58,000 people in India died annually due to snake bites, a recent nine-year study published in the eLife by the Centre for global health research, Toronto and Centre for Herpetology, Madras Crocodile Bank (MCB) revealed.
The renowned herpetologist also told DT Next that India’s snakebite burden was staring and growing inviting more action. Regarding Tamil Nadu, Whitaker said that the situation was much better when compared with other States.
Half of all deaths occurred during the monsoon period from June to September. Available data indicated that most envenomation were due to Russell’s vipers followed by kraits and cobras. Tamil Nadu is also notorious for snake bites, but the mortality rate is low when compared with other Indian States, MCB sources said.
A staggering 1.2 million snakebite deaths in India has occurred since 2000 and the findings in 2011 were taken and expanded along with the nine-year data compiled from various government and private hospitals in India. The number of snakebite deaths over the past two decades in India far exceeds previous estimates, says the new study authored by Professor Prabhat Jha, Director of Centre for Global Health Research Centre, Toronto. The Indian and UK partners expanded the results of the 2011 study by adding 11 more years of field data covering 600,000 randomly selected deaths, and a systematic review of 78 Indian snakebite studies. According to Jha, snakebite, which primarily targets rural farmers are most neglected. But, since 2017, WHO has prioritised snake bites.
“Targeting certain areas with education about simple methods, such as ‘snake-safe’ practices, wearing rubber boots and gloves and using rechargeable torches (or mobile phone flashlights), could reduce the risk of snakebites,” Whitaker said in his study.