Center releases guidelines to reduce snakebite death by half by 2030

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The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday released a National Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Snakebite Envenoming (NAP-SE) to reduce disabilities and deaths due to snakebite by half by 2030. The NAPSE provides a framework for states to develop their own action plan for management, prevention and control of snakebites through the ‘One Health’ approach.

The guidance and support to individuals and communities affected by snakebites, will be piloted in five states and Union territories — Puducherry, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi — under the NAPSE. As per the NAPSE, launched by Union Health Secretary Apurva Chandra, a majority of snakebite envenomation deaths and catastrophic sequelae can be avoided with prompt availability of safe and effective anti-venoms, timely transport and referral.

The strategic action for human health component includes ensuring provision of anti-snake venom at all health facilities, strengthening surveillance of snakebite cases and deaths in humans, strengthening of emergency care services at district hospitals and community health centres, including services for ambulance, institutionalisation of regional venom centre’s and inter-sectoral coordination. Thus the key interventions to reduce deaths due to snakebite include upskilling of medical officers for timely and standard treatment to ensure any victim of snakebite envenoming receives anti-snake venom (ASV) in time and his/her progress is monitored with timely referral/dosage.

In India, around 50,000 deaths occur of an estimated 3-4 million snakebites annually which accounts for half of all snakebite deaths globally. Only a small proportion of snakebite victims across countries report to the clinics and hospitals and actual burden of snake bite is grossly underreported. As per the Central Bureau of Health Investigation (CBHI) reports (2016-2020), the average annual frequency of snakebite cases in India is around 3 lakhs and about 2000 deaths occur due to snakebite envenoming.

In India, around 90% of snakebites are caused by the ‘big four’ among the crawlers – common krait, Indian cobra, Russell’s viper and saw scaled viper. Administration of polyvalent anti-snake venom (ASV) containing antibodies against cobra, Russell’s viper, common krait and saw scaled viper is effective in 80% of the snakebite cases, however, lack of trained human resources and health facilities to treat snakebite patients remains a cause of concern.