Snakes on the prowl in Zim

HARARE - Poisonous snakes are on the rampage, particularly in the country’s snake belt regions, biting 320 people in the first four weeks of the year.

Statistics from the ministry of Health and Child Care indicate that, on average, snakes are biting 12 people per day.

Between January 1 and 26, one death was recorded as a result of the biting in Chirumanzu District, in the Midlands Province.

At least 164 bite cases were recorded during the first two weeks of January with the cumulative figure rising to 320 as of January 26.

“The total snake bite cases reported during the week ending 14 January 2018 were 164 and one death,” reads a statement from the ministry of Health.

“The death was reported from Chirumanzu District in Midlands Province. The cumulative figures for snake bites were 320 and one death. The case fatality rate is 0,31 percent”.

The high rate of snake bites coincided with the peak period for farming which is also the breeding season for snakes.

During the same period last year, 214 cases of snake bites were recorded, with no deaths.

In the first four months of 2017, the neurotoxic reptiles claimed 38 lives, while the number of those bitten was 5 605.

Gerald Gwinji, the permanent secretary in the ministry of Health, said government was intensifying efforts to create awareness on self-protection and ensuring the availability of anti-snake drugs at all times.

“We expect snakebites to around the time foliage increases. The situation was worse last year because of the heavy rains that were experienced in the country. In light of this, we have already acquired the required medicines to control the situation,” said Gwinji.

According to the African Snakebite Institute, Zimbabwe has 81 snake species, 48 of which are highly poisonous.

Puff adders are the biggest culprit and are responsible for up to 90 percent of cases and deaths from snake bites.

Its venom can kill a person within 18 hours or cause paralysis if treatment is delayed because of toxins that damage the human nervous system.

The black mamba is Zimbabwe’s largest venomous snake, reaching an average 2,5 metres in length but can get as long as 4,5 metres.

It’s extremely aggressive and will not hesitate to strike. Very fast and agile, it can reach speeds of up to 20 kilometres per hour.

Its venom is an extremely potent neuro and cardio-toxic mix, capable of killing a dozen men within the hour, without proper treatment and anti-venom, the mortality rate is almost 100 percent.

Zimbabwe’s forested areas also provide the perfect habitat for a variety of highly neurotoxic cobras, which include the Egyptian cobra, the spitting cobra and the Cape cobra.

The green mamba, the Gabon viper and the bush viper are some of dangerous snake species that prowl the country’s forests.

However, the puff adder and the cobras interface more with human beings because of their abilities to creep into homes, where they often find themselves under tight conditions and needing to strike.

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