95 persons die from snakebite in five years

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An estimated 95 persons have died over a five year period as a result of being bitten by venomous snakes, the Ministry of Public Health noted.

“From accessible statistics (2010–2014), documents show that there were 1, 190 cases of snakebite resulting in the death of 95 persons,” the Ministry said a in statement today.

The statistics show that adult males are more more vulnerable to the lethal bites from these dangerous reptiles.

In an effort to improve its response protocol to snakebites, the Ministry purchased anti-venom treatment from Costa Rica which is currently available at the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPHC).

GPHC currently has the capacity to implement the new protocol and the institution also has the ability to manage possible complications from the use of anti-venom including allergic/anaphylactic reaction, which could be life-threatening.

The most common anaphylactic reactions are to foods, insect stings, medications and latex.

If one is allergic to a substance, one’s immune system overreacts to the allergen by releasing chemicals that cause allergy symptoms.

Meanwhile, GPHC’s Accident and Emergency (A&E) Unit is spearheading a training scheme for all relevant staff at Regional and District Hospitals nationwide to help prevent overburdening of its central system.

The Ministry said it is also exploring best practices to monitor the physiological effects of envenomation (the process by which venom is injected into a victim through bite or sting) and its complications. The current management protocols include supporting pain control, tetanus protection, blood transfusion, infection control and wound care for victims.

As part of the snakebite sensitisation plan, communities will be educated about proper measures to implement to minimise contact with snakes and avoiding their deadly bites.

Community Involvement Important

The Ministry is also seeking the cooperation of all residents of high-risk areas including farms, forested areas, woodlands, grasslands and newly developed housing areas to:

• ensure that possible breathing sites for snakes be reduced by eliminating dumping and heaping of organic and vegetation waste such as branches, weeds, cuttings and coconut shells;

• remove overgrown vegetation that may serve as avenues of to residents yards and public waterways by dangerous species of snakes;

• desist from discarding/dumping unused foods and food materials indiscriminately which may attract rats and also snakes (searching for food) to the domestic surroundings;

• use personal protective equipment (PPEs) and observe caution signs when exploring, clearing or venturing into high-risk areas.

Guyana is home to a wide variety of species of snakes, and of these, four are known to be deadly: the Labaria (Bothrops atrox); the Carpet Labaria (Bothrops taeniata) and its close relative the Bushmaster (Lachesis muta).

The latter is found in most parts of the country but is especially prevalent in the moist coastal plains, rainforest and arid grasslands.

The other deadly species include the Rupununi Rattler (Crotalus durissus) found mainly in the savannah grasslands and the Coral snake (Elapids) found in a variety of environments and move seasonally to diverse areas in search of food.

Guyana’s economy still depends heavily on agriculture and the heavy dependence farming, logging and mining, and this exposes locals to the risk of contact with venomous snakes.