WHO online snake guide aims to counter anti-venom shortage

4th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

The World Health Organisation on Tuesday launched an online snake guide in a bid to overcome a shortage of anti-venom for poisonous snake bites, which kill at least 100,000 people a year.

An estimated five million people are bitten by snakes every year, half of them venomous, causing not only deaths but also some 300,000 amputations as well as paralysis and kidney failure, according to the WHO.

Most of the victims are children, women and farmers in poor rural areas where medical help is sparse.

"Most deaths and serious consequences are preventable by making anti-venom more widely available, said Lembit Rago, a WHO coordinator for medicine safety.

"However, anti-venom supply failure is imminent in Africa, and in some countries of Asia and also some countries beyond those," he told journalists.

Rago said snakebites were neglected as a public health issue in many of the tropical countries where the most deadly snakes are prevalent.

As a result, producers were increasing prices of anti-venom or simply stopping production and development altogether.

When it is available, anti-venom is often untested or used for the wrong type of snakebite, according to the WHO.

The illustrated Internet database is designed to guide the use of anti-venoms and help build up stocks in the right areas, as well as help ordinary people identify poisonous snakes in the area they live in.

"You can get introduced to all 263 venomous snakes by picture," said Rago.

The WHO snake database can be found at http://apps.who.int/bloodproducts/snakeantivenoms/database/default.htm

© 2010 AFP

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