Snakebite Deaths in India | 11 Jul 2020

Why in News

Recently, a study conducted by the Centre for Global Health Research (CGHR) at the University of Toronto (Canada), with Indian and United Kingdom as partners, has revealed that India recorded 1.2 million snakebite deaths from 2000 to 2019 (i.e. an average of annual 58,000 deaths).

  • Earlier, in the largest ever such survey published in 2011 titled ‘Snakebite Mortality in India: A Nationally Representative Mortality Survey’, estimated 46,000 annual snakebite deaths in India.

Key Points

  • Data Analysis:
    • Half of all the snakebite deaths occurred during the monsoon period from June to September.
    • Around 70% of deaths occurred in limited, low altitude, rural areas of the following States — Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
      • The numbers for annual snakebite deaths were highest in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Bihar.
    • The snakebite deaths occurred mostly in rural areas (97%), were more common in males (59%) than females (41%), and peaked at ages 15-29 years (25%).
    • The overall lifetime risk of being killed by snakebite is about 1 in 250, but in some areas, the lifetime risk reaches 1 in 100.
    • It also indicated that most of the envenomation (the process by which venom is injected by the bite or sting of a venomous animal) was by Russell’s vipers followed by Kraits and Cobras.
  • Solutions:
    • Immediate Action: As India has tremendous snakebite burden and the World Health Organization (WHO) recognises snakebite as a top-priority Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD), there is a need for immediate action.
    • Snake Safe Harvest Practices: The primary victims of snakebites are rural farmers and their families. Targeting certain areas and educating people with simple methods such as ‘snake-safe’ harvest practices — using rubber boots and gloves, mosquito nets and rechargeable torches (or mobile phone flashlights) — could reduce the risk of snakebites.
    • Snake Species Database: Habitat details, clear photographs and geographical distribution in the form of snake database would help in the identification of the venomous and nonvenomous snake species.
    • Anti-Venom: India has sufficient capacity to manufacture large volumes of anti-venom. However, Indian anti-venoms neutralise venom from only spectacled cobra, common krait, Russell’s viper and saw-scaled viper, whereas there are 12 other snake species causing fatal bites that are not covered by current anti-venoms.
      • Antivenoms are the medicines produced from antibodies made by animals to injected venoms.
        • It is given to stop snake venom from binding to tissues and causing serious blood, tissue, or nervous system problems.

Source: TH