Monsoon fury forces ICMR to issue snakebite cure guidelines for health workers
NEW DELHI: As snakebite cases have started rising because of the rains, the ICMR is soon going to roll out a series of educational materials in Hindi, English and Odiya for medical officers in the community and public health centres due to their lack of knowledge on its treatment.
The educational material for health workers will also be published in other regional languages, especially in the states where snakebite cases are rampant.
The idea to come out with these educational materials was also to assist ASHAs, Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) and other health workers to identify snake bites early, provide effective first aid, and timely referrals to the nearest healthcare facility.
The material has been jointly prepared by the Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute for Research in Reproductive and Child Health (NIRRH), Mumbai.
The booklet pictorially depicts the commonly found snake species, signs and symptoms of snakebite envenomation and outlines first aid and preventive measures for the same.
“We hope this material will help in high-burden areas across India and will prove effective in reducing deaths and disabilities associated with snakebite envenomation,” said Dr Rahul K. Gajbhiye, Scientist D and DBT Wellcome India Alliance, clinical and public health intermediate Fellow, Head Clinical Research Department ICMR-NIRRH.
“As part of our national snakebite implementation project, we developed medical officers’ flow chart for snakebite treatment. Medical officers in PHC and CHC should be able to treat snakebite cases using the document,” Gajbhiye told The New Indian Express.
“There was a lack of appropriate IEC material on snakebite and training manual for ANMs, MPW and ASHAS so we developed these educational materials in consultation with snakebite experts, herpetologists, scientists, physicians and community health experts,” he added.
“We are disseminating these educational materials from this month as snakebite cases started rising after the monsoon,” he said.
It was also felt that this educational material – which also lists the identification of poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, common hiding places for snakes, and symptoms – should be shared with the health workers as they are the first ones to get in contact with the victims.
But as most of them are unaware of its treatment, the chances of deaths increase.
Eight states — Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana — shared the burden of about 70% of snakebite deaths from 2001 to 2014.
Snakebite envenomation (SBE) is an acute, life-threatening, time-limiting, medical emergency affecting 1.8-2.7 million people with estimated 138,000 deaths annually across the globe.
India contributes an average of 58,000 deaths annually. India is one of the world’s most affected countries due to the large population engaged in agricultural activities.
It is estimated that India had 1.2 million snakebite deaths (average 58,000/year) from 2000 to 2019 which is an increase of about 8000 cases/year compared to the earlier estimated survey (2001-2003).
Gajbhiye said that the majority of the deaths occurred at home in the rural areas with half of the deaths happening between 30-69 years of age, which is a productive age.
In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) resolved to halve the global burden of snakebites by 2030.
Being a major contributor to the existing global burden of mortality, India is taking initiatives at the national and regional level to achieve the WHO target of 2030.
Snakebite envenoming (SBE) is one of the neglected tropical diseases (NTD) leading to around 81,410 to 137,880 deaths from 1.8 million to 2.7 million cases globally.
SBE affects around 400,000 people every year causing permanent physical or psychological disabilities including blindness, amputation, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
It is estimated that in countries with a frail health system and scarcity of anti-venom, one death occurs every five minutes and four more people are disabled permanently due to SBE.