By Chika Onyesi
The Federal government has declared snakebites and its attendant complications a public health challenge which leads to about 2,000 deaths and 1, 700 amputations annually in Nigeria.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire who disclosed these figures say the private sector and stakeholders now need to contribute towards the control, prevention and treatment of poisonous snakebites across the country.
Dr. Ehanire was speaking at an event to mark the 2019 International Snakebite Awareness Day, with the theme “Snakebite Envenoming: Engaging and Empowering Communities”.
The 2nd Edition of the event is organised by the Snakebite Envenoming Program of Neglected Tropical Diseases Division, Public Health Department of the Federal Ministry of Health.
The awareness drive is aimed at collaborating with communities through prevention, increasing the usage of treatment through education, training and facilitation as well as utilization of research outcome to determine the socio-cultural, economic, political and geographical influences on perception of snakebite.
According to the minister, about 3 species of snakes are responsible for the venomous snakebites that lead to death; they are the Naja nigricolis (Cobra), Bitis arietans (Puf f Adder) and Echis ocellatus (Carpet Viper).
The victims of these species of snakes he says are mostly rural women, children, peasant farmers, herdsmen and hunters.
Despite the bleak picture, the Minister of health says Nigeria is making tremendous efforts on the control and prevention of snakebites by bringing the global attention to the issue of envenomation and the process leading to recognition of snakebites as a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD).
Currently, Nigeria records an average of 20, 000 cases of poisonous snakebites annually and these occur predominantly in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Plateau and Enugu states as well as other states in varying degrees
According to research, the bites also occur mainly during planting and harvesting seasons and have lately increased as a result of excessive rainfall, however, the increase in morbidity and mortality associated with the bites has been linked to inadequate quantities of Antisnake-venom in the country.
Currently, a research collaboration between Nigeria Government (FMOH/Echitab Study Group-Nigeria), UK Government (Echitab Study Group, UK) and the Institute of ClodomironPicado, University of Costa Rica has led to the production of 2 variants of antivenom; Echitab G (monospecific) and Echitab Plus (Polyspecific).
The two products had been proven clinically effective and registered by NAFDAC and British Medical Control Authority.