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More than one million people died of snake bite in India

Saturday, July 11, 2020 • Tamil Comments

India has registered a bewildering 1.2 million deaths as a result of snake bites in the last two decades. An average of 58,000 deaths caused by snakebite have been recorded annually from 2000 to 2019.

The species that were responsible for the most number of deaths were Russell's vipers, kraits and cobras, among twelve others. People in the age group of 30 and 69 formed almost half of the victims while nearly one fourth of them were found to be children under 15. According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), people living in densely populated low altitude agricultural areas in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh (which includes Telangana, a recently defined state), Rajasthan and Gujarat, suffered 70% of deaths during the period 2001-2014, particularly during the rainy season when encounters between snakes and humans are more frequent at home and outdoors. The organization has estimated that number of snake bite deaths will reduce by half by 2030, crediting India's substantial efforts in curbing the disease.

Romulus Whitaker from the Centre for Herpetology/Madras Crocodile Bank, reportedly stated, "Since deaths are restricted mainly to lower altitude, intensely agricultural areas, during a single season of each year, this should make the annual epidemics easier to manage. India's tremendous snakebite burden is staring us in the face and we need to act now. Targeting these areas with education about simple methods, such as snake-safe' harvest practices, wearing rubber boots and gloves and using rechargeable torches (or mobile phone flashlights) could reduce the risk of snakebites."

Prabhat Jha, Director of the Centre for Global Health Research at the University of Toronto, Canada, mentioned, "Our study directly quantified and identified the populations most affected by fatal snakebites in India. We showed that 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. Ongoing direct measurement of mortality at local levels is key to achieving WHO's global roadmap."

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