Every year, the World Health Organization estimates that between 81,000 and 138,000 people die from snakebites around the world. According to one estimate, India sees 58,000 deaths every year on average, accounting for between 40 and 70 percent of the global total.
This data comes from a study that looked at trends in national snakebite mortality from 2000 to 2019. It was based on data acquired during the Million Mortality Study, a project directed by Prabhat Jha, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, to better understand the causes of death in rural India.
According to the study, rural India accounts for 94% of snakebite deaths. The southwest monsoon season, which runs from June through September, accounts for half of the fatalities.
While the death toll is appalling, there are also untold hundreds who lose fingers and suffer major health problems as a result of snakebites, including as kidney failure and muscle weakness. According to a recent study, snakebites cost Indians the equivalent of three million years of health and productivity each year.
You read that correctly.
Snakebite envenomation, the precise word for a potentially fatal condition generated by a toxin from a snakebite, was added to the WHO’s list of neglected tropical diseases a few years ago, among dengue, chikungunya, and leprosy.
There are roughly 300 different species of serpents in India’s forests, deserts, hills, meadows, plains, and rivers. About 60 of them are poisonous and medically significant. The spectacled cobra (distinct eye pattern on the hood), the common krait (bluish-black with thin white bands), the saw-scaled viper, and the Russell’s viper are the Big Four of these 60, responsible for the majority of deaths and morbidities across the country (both covered in brown-and-black markings)
In practically every corner of rural India, humans and snakes coexist. It’s impossible to avoid conflict. In a large country like India, we have billions of people, with more than half of them living in agricultural areas.” Also not all encounters with venomous serpents are dangerous. Snakes, on the other hand, aren’t out to get us and prefer to avoid human contact.
Agricultural environments attract rodents, which are snakes’ principal prey. Residents in these areas frequently stroll barefoot or with flimsy slippers, even in the dark. When people walk on a snake by accident, the snake defends itself. Typically, the victims are low-wage workers such as farmers, labourers, and cattle grazers.
Snakes are revered as mythical beings in many places of India. They are revered and are said to possess magical abilities. Indian pop culture, which features spectacular portrayals of snakes with magical abilities in movies and TV shows, demonstrates how pervasive and unshakeable these beliefs are.
Although city inhabitants are more likely to trust and use modern medical services, in some areas, babas and spiritual healers are the first to be consulted when an illness or accident occurs. When dealing with patients, these folks frequently lack medical training and rely on chanting and bogus natural cures. The fact that a high majority of bites do not turn fatal backs up their claims of success in treating snakebites.