New snake bite serum

A World Health Organisation website lists approved anti venoms to inform health care workers and reduce deaths due to poisonous snake bites.

“The regions  most in need are sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and South-east Asia,” said Ana Padilla, a snake venom expert at WHO.

A UN health agency database of approved anti venoms inform treatment of 1.5-million people who suffer venomous bites each year. Deaths number between 20 000 to 94 000.

According to WHO, many anti-venoms are inappropriate and have led to a loss of confidence among doctors and patients, reports The Scotsman.

WHO’s co-ordinator for medicine safety, Dr Lembit Rago, said if proper anti-venom is administered in time, many deaths and serious consequences from snake bites could be prevented.

WHO warns that incident figures may be as high as 1 841 000 poisonous bites and 94 000 deaths. Two companies in 2010 released a new antivenin, an antidote to snake venom to be administered by doctors and hospitals.

Most serums are made by injecting small doses of snake venom into horses, whose bodies develop anti venom, then withdrawing the blood. Snake bite victims sensitive to horse products must be carefully managed.

Some victims are workers, many victims are campers, hikers, picnickers, or live in parks.

There is also a great deal you can do for yourself beginning by identifying which are most dangerous, starting with the species indigenous to your area.

Symptoms of a poisonous bite are;
•  bloody wound discharge
•  signs of fang marks in the skin and swelling at the site of the bite
•  localised pain, usually severe
•  rapid pulse rate
•  sometimes diarrhea
•  serious feelings of burning
•  involuntarily convulsions
•  chills or fainting
•  dizziness
•  weakness
•  blurred eyesight
•  excessive sweating or feverishness
•  uncommon thirst
•  muscle coordination loss
•  vomiting or nausea
•  tingling or numbness
•  rapid heartbeat

If bitten, seek emergency assistance as quickly as possible. If you can’t get it, or until medical help arrives;

•  flush the bite site with soap and water
•  lower the bitten body part trying to keep it lower than the heart
•  cover bite with a clean cool compress or a moist gauze or cloth dressing to slow welling and ease discomfort
•  check vital signs of victim regularly.

If it is not possible to get medical care within half an hour, Red Cross recommends:

•  Apply a bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, to help slow the venom. This should not cut off the flow of blood from a vein or artery – the band should be loose enough to slip a finger under it.

•  A suction device can be placed over the bite to help draw venom out of the wound without making cuts. These devices are often included in commercial snake bite kits.

Prevent snakebite

Most bites occur when accidentally stepping on a snake lying among underbrush. Watch where you put your foot, it can greatly reduce chances of snake attack.
When in snake country:

•  Avoid snakes. If you spot one leave it alone. Many folks get bitten by deciding to kill a snake and get too near it.
•  Avoid tall weeds or grassy areas.
•  When hiking, wear thick leather boots and stay on your hike path as much as you can.
•  Do not extend your hands or feet into places where you cannot clearly see what’s there
•  Never pick up rocks, especially in dry areas.
•  Use a shovel or even tree branch to move firewood when outdoors.
•  Be cautious and alert when climbing rocks.
•  Wherever you go, whatever you do, if in snake country always be prepared to stay out of snake striking distance.

Sources; WHO. News Blaze. Scotsman.

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