The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has introduced a module aimed at reducing the deaths caused by venomous snakes.
The module involves training of medical personnel and raising public awareness about snake bites and preventive measures. It has demonstrated promising outcomes in districts of Maharashtra where such incidents are high.
1.2 million snakebite deaths in India from 2000-2019
A recent national mortality survey estimated that India witnessed 1.2 million snakebite deaths (average 58,000/year) from 2000-19, a rise of about 8,000 deaths/year compared to 2001-03.
The genesis of the snakebite project was Dr Rahul Gajbhiye’s experience and learnings from Dahanu.
Multi-sectoral approach to improve community awareness
Dr Gajbhiye, with his research team, chalked out an implementation research project that utilised a multi-sectoral approach to improve community awareness for prevention and early referral of snakebite victims to health facilities and empower medical officers to manage envenomation and its complications.
Their efforts led to a significant reduction in the case fatality rate, from 4.5% to 0.4% in Dahanu. The ICMR National Task Force (NTF) expert group on snakebite research in India, set up in 2019, recommended an upscaling of the Dahanu model employing a similar methodology to a national-level project involving the west and east zones of India.
Dr Gajbhiye said “The data revealed that snakebite envenomation was a major public health problem in Dahanu. Medical officers did not follow standard treatment guidelines.”
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