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Snakebite poisoning cases rise in Nepal’s Terai

Snakebite poisoning

According to latest Lancet study,  80 percent of  snakebite deaths in the region happen on the road owing to different delays, particularly the shortage of transportation

As snakebite envenoming (SBE) or snakebite poisoning cases increase in Nepal, a Lancet research argues for sending snakebite patients to hospitals without waiting for symptoms to manifest.

According to the survey conducted in eastern-Terai region of the country, 80 percent of SBE deaths happen on the road owing to different delays, particularly the shortage of transportation. Many victims delay medical treatment until  symptoms show. Or because of ignorance and reliance on traditional practices.

“It is imperative to emphasise that in all cases of snakebite, transport should be started as soon as possible after the bite, without waiting for any symptoms to appear,” says the study. “Reducing population vulnerability via the improvement of accessibility to snakebite healthcare services will undoubtedly translate into a reduction in the number of deaths and disabilities caused by this neglected tropical disease.” 

It is estimated that snakebite envenoming is likely to cause up to 138,000 deaths and more than 400,000 disabilities worldwide every year.

In Terai alone, the latest snakebite figures have reached 251 victims per 100,000 people, accounting for an estimated 36,148 victims in the region’s  rural population per year. 

For other health emergencies such as obstetric complications, the WHO has set a maximum travel time limit of two hours to access healthcare. For the SBE, time varies greatly depending on the snake species and the associated clinical syndrome –  between 30 minutes and 6 hours.

 “We combined snakebite-risk distribution rasters with travel-time accessibility analyses for the Terai region of Nepal, considering three vehicle types, two seasons, two snakebite syndromes, and uncertainty intervals,” explains the Lancet study.

“We proposed localised and generalised optimisation scenarios to improve snakebite treatment coverage for the population, focusing on the neurotoxic syndrome,”  the study adds. 

Neurotoxicity refers to damage to the brain or peripheral nervous system caused by exposure to natural or man-made toxic substances.

The study attempts to understand snakebite vulnerability through risk modelling and access to treatment and proposes plausible solutions to optimize resource allocation, in accordance with the WHO’s snakebite roadmap.

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