Assam doctor seeks to bridge gaps in snake bite management to ensure zero deaths by 2024
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Guwahati: While seeking faith healers’ help for a cure to snake bites leading to deaths is common in Assam, a doctor of a rural health centre in Sivasagar district has developed a comprehensive care model to ensure zero death of victims by 2024.

An anaesthesiologist with the National Health Mission and serving at the Demow Rural Community Health Centre (DRCHC), Dr Surajit Giri, with support from the state government, seeks to plug loopholes in the snake bite management system in his model.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1.38 lakh people die globally due to snake bites annually and out of this, 50,000 are in India.

Lack of coordinated comprehensive care in snake bite management is the key factor for the high death rate in the North-eastern region and the country but there is no robust data regarding this, Giri told PTI.

Coordinated movement of snake bite victims from the field to the hospital is lacking and the problem of the huge gap between the care in pre-hospital, point of source hospitals and secondary care hospitals needs to be addressed to ensure survival of the victims, he said.

Giri said the DRCH is working on a model since 2018, which is planned for preventive, curative, mental and socio-economic care of snake bite victims.

A Venom Response Team under the Apada Mitra’ project of the District Disaster Management Authority has been formed and they will notify and safely transfer patients to a nearby hospital.

A Fast Response Team comprising an on-duty doctor and nurses was set up to effectively administer anti-snake venoms (ASV) and other medicines if needed.

There is also a small snake bite room’ where all medicines required in such cases will be available while protocols and photographs of venomous snakes of Assam have been mounted on the walls.

We are trying to replicate this in other health centres across the state with the help of doctors posted there so that we can ensure zero snake bite deaths by 2024, he said.

Senior Medical Officer of Sivasagar district, Dr Simanta Taye, said, The project has greatly benefitted those who are bitten by snakes. People now do not hesitate to come to hospitals for treatment immediately.

Work on the project in DRCH started in 2008 after a woman bitten by a snake was first treated by a local quack and brought to a hospital only when it was too late to save her.

At DRCH, 1048 snake bite victims have been registered since 2018 and there has been only one death so far, Giri said.

There are several reasons for people’s tendency to go to faith healers instead of hospitals. Lack of awareness, poor training of rural healthcare workers to administer ASV, and unavailability of ASV in health centres are some of the reasons, he said.

Our goal is to educate, empower, train public and health care workers, strengthen community centres and make the public believe that there is a full proof medical management of both venomous and non-venomous snake bite cases, Giri said.

‘Sanke bite rooms’ have been set up in medical college hospitals in Jorhat and Lakhimpur districts, besides a private facility in Sivasagar.

Prashant Tanti and his 10-year-old son Subham, almost died in March this year when they were bitten by a pit viper. An alert neighbour took them to the health centre and they returned to normal life after nearly two months.

‘My legs had swollen like an elephant’s but timely treatment at the health centre saved our lives. In our village, snake bites are common but people mostly take the help of bez’ (faith healers). Now, I tell them to go to hospitals, Tanti said.

Giri asserted that 99 per cent of snake bite-related deaths could have been prevented if public and health care workers were alert and aware.

A booklet titled Saanp aru Moi’ (Snake and I) highlighting successful treatment of snake bite victims in various hospitals of Assam was released on Monday, the International Snake Bite Awareness Day.

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