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Inappropriate community practices lead to poor outcomes for snake bite victims – Researcher

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Victims of snake bites who are exposed to various practices such as letting out blood from the victims, using a band at the limb where the bite occurs to stop the flow of blood from moving upwards, the use of black stone and rushing victims to traditional healers have been identified as some of the poor measures with serious implications for snake bite victims.

These practices have been described as harmful alternatives to handling snake bites which are due to inappropriate community education.

Dr. John Amuasi, a researcher at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and Executive Director of African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ARNTD), made these known at a media briefing in Accra.

The event was on neglected tropical diseases (NTDS, with a focus on snakebite envenoming.) Snakebite envenoming is the latest addition to the World Health Organization’s list of NTDs.

The briefing was organized by ARNTD, which is made up of eminent researchers, policy makers and implementers from more than 30 African countries and formed part of the activities to commemorate the World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Day, slated for January 30.

NTDs compass 20 bacterial, parasitic, viral diseases plus snakebite that prevail in tropical and subtropical countries affecting over one billion people worldwide, especially among the poor in Africa.

These diseases often result in disfigurement, stigmatization and considerable hampering of the routine activities of its sufferers.

Inspired by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Roadmap to control, eliminate and eradicate some of these diseases by this year, the WHO, World Bank, government representatives, and the world’s 13 leading pharmaceutical companies, met in London in January, 2012 to forge partnerships, adopt strategies and set goals to eradicate some of these NTDs.

This year’s celebration would mark the 8th Anniversary since the London Declaration and has thus been chosen by NTD actors worldwide, including the WHO, to celebrate the gains made so far and garner increased support and attention for NTD control and elimination efforts which will allow populations to thrive in good health.

The issue of snake bite poisoning as part of the NTDs has recently taken centre stage in national and global discussions to prevent needless deaths and pain among populations.

In Ghana, there are 9,000 cases of snake bites yearly but there are no specific indications on how many people actually die from these bites.

The Global Health and Infectious Diseases Research Group at the Kumasi Center for Collaborative Research based at KNUST is carrying out research with support from the Ghana Health Service to produce data and better understanding of the burden of snake bite and its implications in Ghana.

During the media briefing, Dr. Amuasi said preliminary findings show that in Ghana, from  2015 to 2019, there were on the average 9,500 snakebites per year, and those aged between 20 and 34 years suffer the most bites.

He added that the average number of bites show that the Upper West region was at the top of snake bite incidences followed by the Ashanti region, with the Ashanti region topping the list last year.

Dr Amuasi said some factors such as the unavailability of reliable data on types and distributions of snakes in the country, ineffective or sub-standard antivenoms and unavailable or unaffordable protective gear for farmers in rural areas are among some issues slowing down Ghana’s progress to deal with snakebite envenoming.

The WHO has estimated that there are 5.4 million people bitten each year from snakes with up to 2.7 million being poisoned by these bites. Around 81000 to 138000 people die each year because of these bites.

Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Presidential Advisor on Health, addressing the gathering said the research being conducted will help with the effective supply and distribution of antivemons.

He touched on the need to deal with NTDs in general and said government’s programmes such as free secondary school education, one district one factory and planting for food and jobs programmes would all not be meaningful if the population is not healthy.

He charged the public and local authorities to rise up and deal with open defaecation and insanitary conditions, which fuel the spread of NTDs.

Dr Benjamin Marfo, the Programme Manager of NTDs, said some NTDs such as elephantiasis are expected to be eliminated in Ghana soon, adding that NTDs promote poverty and stigma among sufferers.

By Eunice Menka

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