NewsIndia: Government hides tens of thousands of snake bite...

India: Government hides tens of thousands of snake bite deaths

For years people have died en masse from snake bites in India. A study shows that the death toll is far more drastic than the government admits.

New Delhi – India was not only hit hard by the corona pandemic: tens of thousands die from snakebites every year – at least one study suggests. The government, on the other hand, has so far tried to downplay the danger.

The study was published in 2020. A large number of universities and research institutes were involved. Oxford University and the Indian Council for Medical Research, among others. The results of the study showed a very different picture than that of the government.

Danger in India: 58,000 deaths on average from snakebites

The study found that there are an average of 58,000 deaths each year from snake bites in India. The Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey said in 2018 that there were only 689 deaths from snake bites at the time. Against the background of the representative study, this seemed like a farce.

The study, which was carried out between 2000 and 2019, assumed around 1.2 million deaths within the survey period. Over a quarter are said to have been children (under 15 years of age). In 2015 alone, according to the study, there were between 1.11 and 1.77 million bites in India. About 70 percent of this led to symptoms of intoxication.

Snakebites: WHO wants to halve the number of deaths by 2030

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a new strategy against mortality from snake bites back in 2019. It had set itself the goal of halving the number of deaths by 2030. According to the study’s authors, the number of deaths in India could be significantly reduced through more prevention and treatment strategies.

The pain was so great that I felt like someone had skinned my hand.

Shashikant Dubey opposite The Daily Beast

Field worker Shashikant Dubey gave an interview to The Daily Beast about the situation on the ground. He was bitten himself just last month. Dubey had been bitten while working. The fields in which he worked at that time were in Niwari in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The risk of dying from a snakebite in this region before one reaches the age of 70 was given by the study with a probability of between 0.60 and 0.99 percent. This part of the study referred to the years 2004 to 2013. At that time around 21 percent of Indians lived: inside in area with a probability of more than 0.6 percent.

India: 10 kilometers to the antidote – could the dead be avoided?

The field worker stated in his interview that he had to drive around 10 kilometers to the nearest hospital. To prevent the poison from spreading too quickly in his body, he made an incision on the bite wound. This should cause some of the poisoned blood to run out.

When he got to the hospital, his condition was already bad. In the days that followed, he was given 40 doses of the antidote. Today he is healthy again. Not everyone was so lucky, however. A friend of Dubey’s passed away after being bitten in his sleep.

India: “Spiritual healers” do a lot of harm

According to the 28-year-old, many would not have even gone to hospital after a bite. Most of them had been treated by local “spiritual healers”, the worker said. The so-called “spiritual healers” try to avoid poisoning with rituals. For example, the wounded were bathed in milk. This was intended to soften the deities and avert death. (Milk is considered cleansing in Hindu culture)

There are many quacks and faith healers who are wasting even more time and victims usually go to these miracle healers and quacks before going to medical facilities.

Avinash Visvanathan told The Daily Beast

According to experts, one reason for the many deaths is the long distances to medical care. “People waste a lot of time getting to medical facilities, which leads to many deaths,” Avinash Visvanathan, general secretary of Friends of Snake Society, told The Daily Beast. The organization advocated snakes. Another problem the organization had indicated was that there were not enough antidotes in hospitals in rural areas.

Snakes in India

Snakes are massively revered in India. In the Hindu faith there are several important deities in the form of snakes. There is even a special festival for the worship of the snakes – it is called “Naga Panchami”. An incarnation of the Hindu goddess Manasa is seen in the snakes. Believers promise themselves luck for the harvest season from her. In addition, the animals should keep mischief away.

No reporting requirement in India: could so many deaths be prevented?

Doctors have already sounded the alarm. The government doctor Dr. Ramachandra Kumar pointed to a lack of awareness among the population. The fact that snake bites did not have to be reported is another problem.

In the past, reporting was only introduced for communicable diseases, according to Priyanka Kadam, president and founder of the Snakebite Healing and Education Society in Mumbai. Missing data on snake bites were, according to Dr. Ramachandra Kumar one of the main problems so far. Without this data, the snake crisis could not be overcome, said the doctor. (Lucas Maier)

The country not only had to struggle with snakebites and the corona pandemic this year, India was also hit by a heavy monsoon rain. (Lucas Maier)

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