Anti-venom stocks for snake bites critically low

2015-09-10 09:00
A Western Diamondback Rattlesnake at Pure Venom reptile farm in Izotsha.

A Western Diamondback Rattlesnake at Pure Venom reptile farm in Izotsha. (Twanet Kirkby)

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WITH an estimated 257 deaths from snake bites a year in South Africa, and summer fast approaching, Medicins Sans Frontieres say that stocks of anti-venoms are critically low.

Medicins Sans Frontieres South Africa spokesperson Angela Makamure said yesterday that anti-venom for bites from KwaZulu-Natal’s Gaboon Viper, Puff Adder, Black Mamba and Forest Cobra were running dangerously low.

Makamure said with summer approaching, snakes would become more active and the number of snake bites would increase.

“In areas where we treat many victims of snake bites, the numbers go up dramatically during the rainy season as snakes seek dry areas.

“The World Health Organisation, governments, donors and pharmaceutical industries must tackle snakebite as a public health emergency and take immediate action to ensure treatment and diagnostics become available for those who need it,” Makamure said.

An estimation by the International Society on Toxinology’s Global Snakebite Initiative had put the number of deaths from snake bites in South Africa every year at 257, and the number of total bites in South Africa at 1 864 annually.

They estimated that the snake population in South Africa was currently around 48 million.

Pietermaritzburg snake expert Mark Enslin said the situation was “not good”.

“We are going into summer now, and last summer we had a number of bites in KwaZulu-Natal, and I heard that a few victims were hospitalised.

“Each person reacts differently to a bite, so where one person may need one ampoule of anti-venom to treat one bite, another person may need 100 ampoules to treat a single bite.”

Enslin said anti-venoms did not have a long shelf life, and with stocks already low and summer on its way, the situation was far from ideal.

He said snakes frequented the Ashburton, Montrose and Cascades areas, and Cato Ridge — he had been called out to those areas most often to remove snakes.

Enslin said a person should immediately seek medical attention if bitten by a snake.

Anyone who found a snake identified as dangerous should call Enslin at 10111 or 079 951 4777 — he would safely remove the snake without harming it.

He appealed to people not to kill snakes unless they posed an immediate danger to humans

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  venom  |  animals

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