Snakebites claim 38

HARARE - At least 38 people have died from snakebites since January this year, Health ministry permanent secretary Gerald Gwinji told Parliament recently.

This comes as the Meteorological Services Department (Met) has warned residents to be on the look-out for the reptiles which are leaving their natural habitat to invade residential areas due to the recent heavy rains.

Presenting oral evidence to Parliament’s Health portfolio committee, Gwinji said “since the beginning of the year, 5 605 cases of snakebites and 38 deaths throughout the country have been recorded”.

“We expect snakebites to increase around the time foliage increases. What we have tried to do is preposition the anti-serum that is required,” he said.

Gwinji, however, said in trying to treat snake bite victims, they are met with a challenge of reluctance to use the anti-serum, “fearing adverse side effects or reactions”.

“We have asked our senior clinicians to appropriately skill government medical officers to have confidence in using the anti-serum,” he said.

He said the anti-serum is in stock, but sometimes expires because some people have a fear of serum reactions.

He added that the solution to avoid snake bites is behavioural change, with people careful of where they get their firewood and by keeping their surroundings clear of shrubs.

He added that while people are increasingly dying from snakebites, others survive through interventions such as the use of traditional medicines.

According to 2015 statistics,

5 332 cases of snakebites were recorded with 41 deaths during the year, while 3 195 snake bites were reported and 39 deaths in 2014.

Gwinji said while the ministry has tried engaging traditional healers on what medicines they use, they are very secretive of their concoctions.

He said regardless of the secretive approach by traditional healers, the ministry will still concentrate on distributing the anti-tetanus and anti-serum to healthcare facilities.

“As we try to engage traditional practitioners through our directorate, some of the interactions we have with them are on hygiene issues such as the use of razors. However, while they may change needles and razors, it is what they put on the bite that is of concern to us,” Gwinji said.

Meanwhile, Met said: “We understand the ministry of Health and Child Care has registered a significant number of snakebites and even resulting in deaths in the just-ended season. This could be linked to the unusual rains and high water levels which have either swept away crocodiles and snakes or could have found new havens.”

The Civil Protection Unit also issued a warning during the rainy season after snakes were swept out of their burrows into people’s yards and homes by the floods.

According to the African Snakebite Institute, Zimbabwe has 81 different types of snakes, 33 species are non-venomous.

Comments (1)

Europeans love snakes. Instead of exporting our elephants where they end up being cruelyy treated in their zoos for their folks' entertainment, Oppah, please invite them to catch all snakes and take them with them. We don`t mind a scouge of rats invading us: we can deal with them.

Masamba Akareyo - Tanganda - 13 April 2017

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