Support for health system to fight snakebites

Dhaka, 20 December 2018: WHO supported Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in strengthening its response to snakebites that are affecting 700 000 people in Bangladesh with 6000 deaths annually.

Snakebite is an important public health issue in the country as it is the second most common cause of deaths during floods. In Bangladesh, out of 82 species of snakes, 27 are poisonous and 6 species are poisonous snakes of human concern. Although their usual habitats are mainly away from the human communities natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes force them to come near human settlements.

Following a country wide assessment, WHO worked with the MoHFW to scale up its preparedness and response through improving all aspects of management of snakebites: updating Guidelines for the Management of Snakebite, conducting trainings for health care professionals on diagnosis and treatment, provision of anti-venom and other ancillary drugs.

In addition to updating guidelines and distributing 5 000 anti-venom doses countrywide earlier in 2018, WHO and DGHS trained 352 medical doctors from all divisional Medical College Hospitals in Bangladesh on snakebite management. The trainings were conducted in October and November 2018 and were aimed to reduce snakebites mortality during disasters, particularly in post flood situation. The trainings emphasized modern techniques and recent changes in international standards for treatment recommendations and best practice standards for snake bite case management.

Rational use of snake anti-venom including addressing cultural taboo and norms can substantially reduce mortality and morbidity caused by snake bites. Appropriate messages and public awareness through health education, proper treatment and timely availability of anti-snake venom is of vital importance for saving lives.

As part of its health emergency preparedness and response mandate, WHO will continue working with MoHFW to improve snakebite management, to ensure better prevention measures and also timely and adequate response actions that will reduce mortality caused by snakebites.