Saturday December 15, 2018

WHO Plans To Enhance It’s Combat Against Snakebites

WHO estimates venomous snakes bite 1.8 million to 2.7 million people a year

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A snake charmer points out a snakebite during a performance with a snake outside a temple in Allahabad, India.
A snake charmer points out a snakebite during a performance with a snake outside a temple in Allahabad, India. VOA
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Governments around the world plan to strike back harder against snakebite, a scourge that kills tens of thousands of people a year.

A World Health Organization (WHO) resolution raises the priority of improving snakebite prevention as well as access to effective and affordable anti-venom. The measure was approved by 192 countries in late May.

The WHO estimates that venomous snakes bite 1.8 million to 2.7 million people a year, killing between 81,000 and 138,000 of them.

“For every person who dies following a snakebite, another four or five are left with disabilities such as blindness, restricted mobility or amputation, and post-traumatic stress disorder,” the WHO reports.

Snakebite envenoming is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, the WHO reports. People in rural, impoverished areas there and elsewhere are most at risk, challenged by poor or remote health systems, and limited diagnoses, ambulances and other emergency care – including reliable anti-venom.

Grass snake
Grass snake, Flickr

In sub-Saharan Africa, just 2 percent of people bitten by venomous snakes have access to appropriate anti-venom, says Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the aid group also known as Doctors Without Borders.

“We need to know better the data [on] where most cases take place,” said Julien Potet, MSF’s policy adviser on neglected tropical diseases, speaking by phone last week from Geneva. “We need to better regulate the quality of the anti-venoms, to distribute them accordingly in the areas of highest need” and to make them affordable, “because otherwise they [patients] will not be able to access the product.”

Potet pointed out that French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur has stopped manufacturing Fav-Afrique, the only serum known to effectively treat bites from some sub-Saharan African snakes. The last batches of the company’s serum expired in June 2016.

Production of the anti-venom takes roughly two years, the in-Pharma Technologist website reported. It said the pharmaceutical company cited manufacturing costs, and competition from cheaper but less effective treatments, in its decision to stop producing Fav-Afrique.

MSF has estimated that the anti-venom costs a patient $250 to $500 for treatment.

Sanofi Pasteur announced in January that it had agreed to divest its anti-venom immunoglobulin range, which includes Fav-Afrique, to the U.K.-based firm MicroPharm.

“We hope this resolution will trigger some actions to better regulate the market … and to prioritize and subsidize” anti-venom production and distribution, Potet said.

“Now we need to make sure this resolution is translated into a concrete, fully funded action plan,” he added.

A researcher demonstrates how to extract venom from a snake to vacationing school children during a presentation at the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jan. 23, 2015
A researcher demonstrates how to extract venom from a snake to vacationing school children during a presentation at the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jan. 23, 2015, VOA

A WHO working group is expected to offer recommendations on how governments can bolster data collection, training for health workers, access to care and support for effective anti-venoms, according to Devex, a website aimed at the global development community. It said the group’s report is expected by Nov. 30.

Also read: Australian snakes have Asian origins study

Devex also reported that David Williams, the group’s chair, estimated “about $6 million was needed in 2018-2019 to prepare the recommendations, improve surveillance, deliver antivenoms, and address other technical and medical challenges.” (VOA)

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Road Traffic Accidents Cause 1.35 Mn Deaths Each Year: WHO

WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.

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Traffic Crashes, Road Traffic
Two bikes were involved in an accident with a bus that crashed and turned on its roof near the town of Franschhoek, South Africa, March 7, 2015. VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for urgent action to put a brake on road traffic crashes that kill 1.35 million people every year, mostly in poor developing countries.

In Geneva, the U.N. agency launched its global status report on road safety 2018.

The report found road traffic injuries to be the leading killer of children and young people aged five to 29 years, with a death occurring every 24 seconds. The report said more than half of those killed are pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcycle riders and passengers.

Etienne Krug, head of the U.N. Agency’s Department on Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, called these deaths a huge inequality issue.

Traffic Signals, Road Traffic
Traffic and congestion on roads is frequent in all cities of India. Wikimedia

“Low-income countries have one percent of the vehicles in the world and 13 percent of all the deaths; while high-income countries have 40 percent of all the vehicles,” Krug said. “So, that is 40 times more, but only seven percent of the deaths.That is half of the deaths with 40 times more vehicles.”

The report said death rates are highest in Africa and lowest in Europe. Some of the key risk factors include speeding, drinking and driving, and failure to use seat belts, motorcycle helmets and child restraints.

Krug said putting the right measures in place will save lives. These include the right legislation and enforcement, creating special lanes for cyclists and improving the quality of vehicles.

Road accidents in India
Road accidents in India. Pixabay

“It is not acceptable that vehicles are being sold in developing countries that look the same as the vehicles that we see here in Switzerland or the U.S. or anywhere else, but that are not,” Krug told VOA. “Because to make them cheaper, they have been stripped of all of their safety features, such as air bags or electronic stability control, etc.”

WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.

Also Read: HIV Epidemic Spreading Rapidly in Pakistan: WHO

However, it said no such progress has been made in low-income countries where safety measures are lacking. (VOA)