International Snakebite Awareness Day 2021

International Snakebite Awareness Day 2021

Snakebite is a life-threatening medical emergency resulting in 1.8 million envenomings, 138,000 deaths and 400,000 cases of long-term morbidity annually, and predominately affects rural impoverished victims of the tropics.

Thus, every minute, a snakebite victim suffers permanent disability or death, and the total mortality burden equates to a third of those dying annually from malaria. In India, there is one snakebite death for every two by HIV/AIDS.

These startling figures stimulated the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to refer to snakebite as “the biggest public health crisis you’ve never heard of”, the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify snakebite as a priority neglected tropical disease (NTD), and the biomedical charity Wellcome to make snakebite a priority topic for research funding.

While systemic envenoming (e.g. neuromuscular paralysis, haemorrhage) causes life threatening symptoms in snakebite victims, local snakebite pathology is rarely immediately life-threatening, but instead results in long-term morbidity, including loss of limb function, scarring and/or amputation, while associated stigma and loss of economic productivity can drive already impoverished victims and their families into deeper poverty.

The burden of snakebite morbidity is estimated to be an amount greater than most other NTDs, including trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis and dengue. For all of the reasons outlined above, snakebite continues to be a major global health issues that requires both immediate and sustained action.

Professor Nicholas Casewell
Head of Centre for Snakebite Research & Interventions