Tag: Bikash Gauchan

Snake Bite Anti-Venom Shortages: A Preventable Public Health Crisis

bayalpata_lg (1)“This is a 32 year old male who presented early this morning with a snake bite. He has received anti- venom per the protocol sir. He is asymptomatic and we can discharge this afternoon if he remains stable.” The health assistant presented the patient to his senior doctor – we were on morning inpatient rounds at Bayalpata Hospital in rural Achham, Nepal. “Excellent work bhai, this saved his life.”

Snake venom can be rapidly fatal; globally snake bites kill over 100,000 people per year, and permanently disable four times that number. Anti-venom treatment can save hundreds of thousands of lives annually, but without rapid access for patients, it can’t help anyone – not two weeks earlier our team lost a 39 year old mother of four after a snake bite on her ankle while she slept on the dirt floor of her home; she died within 24 hours as she did not have access to anti- venom. Tragically, this live-saving medication will soon be much less available.

Many of the world’s most toxic snakes are located in Sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, and South Asia, including Nepal where our team works with the Ministry of Health. Snakebites are one of the many “diseases of poverty” – that is, medical conditions that effect primarily the impoverished of our world due to lack of medicines and access to necessary healthcare. In Nepal – currently one of the world’s thirty poorest countries – regular stock-outs of anti-venom, as well as limited access to healthcare, leads to frequent and unnecessary deaths due to snake bites. Globally there are multiple types of anti-venoms, each made specific to the species of snakes they treat. While the anti-venom stock-outs we struggle with in Nepal is similar in dozens of other countries, in sub-Saharan Africa the anti-venom shortage is about to get much worse.

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