BY PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA |
Snakebite, which is one of the neglected public health problems, is threatening the lives of many Nigerians, especially those living in endemic areas.
According to experts, snakebite is an underestimated and ignored public health problem that causes considerable illness, disabilities, death, and socioeconomic hardship to poor populations living in rural areas, where access to life-saving antivenom is poor.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2019, came up with a strategy, aimed at ensuring that all snake bite patients have better overall care, so that the numbers of deaths and cases of disability are reduced by 50 per cent before 2030.
However, about 15,000 people in Nigeria are at risk of snake bite annually but only 5,000 Antisnake Venom (ASV) are provided.
This results to a huge gap of 10,000, meaning that about 10,000 people may die of snakebite annually due to lack of treatment.
This was disclosed by the Deputy Director, Snakebite Envenoming Program, Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), Fatai Oyediran, at a media dialogue on Neglected Tropical Diseases Control in Nigeria, organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information & Culture, recently in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Oyediran, who made the disclosure in his presentation titled: ‘Overview of Snakebite Envenoming & Management Control Programme in Nigeria – The Journey so far’, identified inadequate funding, late release of funds and non-production of ASV locally as major setbacks.
To minimise deaths from snakebites, Oyediran urged that a snake bite victim should immediately be taken to the hospital while identifying symptoms as;
increase in local pain (burning, bursting and throbbing), fang marks, local bleeding around affected area, local infection and abscess formation lymph node enlargement, nausea, vomiting and generalised weakness.
According to him, complications from snakebite include gangrene, severe oral gingival bleeding, gross swelling, disfiguration, amputation, blepharemosis effect, multiple blisters, myotoxic effect, visual disturbance, shock, muscle tenderness, stiffness of muscles and Drowsiness.
This threat has also highlighted the need for Nigeria to begin to consider local production of ASV as well as harness it’s potential in herbal medicine production as there are several claims of herbal cure for snakebites.
On this, Oyediran told LEADERDHIP that interactions were ongoing with the Traditional Medicine Department of the Federal Ministry of Health, with the call for Traditional Medicine Practitioners to come up with their claims.
The fear, however, is that it may take a very long time. “These claims are going to be verified by the Nigeria Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
“But this will take a long time because we are just starting. They will bring their claims, we will meet with them whenever they submit it. NAFDAC and NIPRD will evaluate and review what they submitted,” he explained.
Meanwhile, stressing the need for Nigerians to adopt measures to prevent snakes around their environment, Oyediran encouraged the planting of known species of plants that repel snakes.
“Dumping of refuse near homes should be discouraged, as this is likely to attract rodents and arthropods on which snakes feed.
“Keeping of pets such as cats that eat rodents. Rearing of animals and birds that are known to eat snakes. Close -up all unnecessary holes and set traps to suspected holes in and around the house.
“Eliminate snake habitat and hiding places (wood piles, garden debris, cracks and holes) in living houses
Keep rodents (rats and mice) and other household pests which snakes prey on under control.
“Erect snake proof fences 2-3 ft high wire meshes have been found to be effective.
Use of snake repellants. Naphthalene can be spread round the perimeter of the house.
“In the event of snake threat, make noise that can scare off snake.”
He, therefore, stressed the urgent need to acquire knowledge of the epidemiology of snakebite envenomation nationwide and to promote public health policies directed at improving the treatment and prevention of snakebite envenomation.
More importantly, he said all efforts must be geared towards commencement of ASV production in Nigeria soonest.
Snake bite is just one of the NTDs in Nigeria; a group of preventable and treatable diseases like Guinea-worm, Leprosy, etc, that could be caused by viruses, bacteria and protozoa and are closely associated with poverty, poor sanitation, lack of safe water sources, substandard housing conditions and deficient healthcare access.
According to the director and national coordinator, NTDs Elimination Programme, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, N154billion is needed for the control and elimination of NTDs in the country by 2025.
He also said that 122 million Nigerians were at risk of one or more NTDs, adding that 20 per cent of this figure are pre-school children, 28 Per cent school age children and 52 per cent are adults.
Every part of Nigeria is endemic with one or more NTDs, thus the need for government at all levels to invest in elimination of the diseases as about 80 per cent of NTDs intervention in the country is being supported by external funding, said Anyaike.
The head, Child Rights Information Bureau, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Ms Mercy Megwa, stressed the need to work out modalities that will help in the control, elimination and eradication of NTDs in the country.
She said despite the fact that the country has been certified Guinea-worm free, other NTDs still call for concern due to the huge burden in the country.