News24

Web snake guide for lack of anti-venom

2010-05-04 22:40

Geneva - The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday launched an online snake guide in a bid to overcome a shortage of anti-venom for poisonous snake bites, which kill at least 100 000 people a year.

An estimated five million people are bitten by snakes every year, half of them venomous, causing not only deaths but also about 300 000 amputations as well as paralysis and kidney failure, according to the WHO.

Most of the victims are children, women and farmers in poor rural areas where medical help is sparse.

"Most deaths and serious consequences are preventable by making anti-venom more widely available, said Lembit Rago, a WHO co-ordinator for medicine safety.

"However, anti-venom supply failure is imminent in Africa, and in some countries of Asia and also some countries beyond those," he told journalists.

Rago said snakebites were neglected as a public health issue in many of the tropical countries where the most deadly snakes are prevalent.

As a result, producers were increasing prices of anti-venom or simply stopping production and development altogether.

When it is available, anti-venom is often untested or used for the wrong type of snakebite, according to the WHO.

The illustrated internet database is designed to guide the use of anti-venoms and help build up stocks in the right areas, as well as help ordinary people identify poisonous snakes in the area where they live.

"You can get introduced to all 263 venomous snakes by picture," said Rago.