Snakebite patients in eastern Nepal dying due to lack of timely treatment

Published On: July 27, 2019 02:05 AM NPT By: Amar Khadka

ITAHARI, July 27: Samir Rishidev, a local of Itahari Municipality-11 in Sunsari district, died on his way to health center after he was bit by a venomous snake. The snake bit the 11-year-old Rishidev while he was sleeping in his bed. 

Shortly after the snake bit him, Rishidev’s family members approached a local shaman instead of taking him to a hospital. After realizing that the shaman would not be able to cure him, Rishidev was taken to a medical centre but he died on the way as it was already too late.

The family’s wrong choice for treatment and the delay in admitting him to the community snakebite treatment center operated on the premises of Nepal Army’s eastern region headquarters cost the child his life.

Around 20 days ago, another youth from Chaudandigadhi of Udayapur had died of snakebite. The youth, Nawaraj BK of ward no 2 of the municipality, also died on his way to the hospital. The youth was initially admitted to the Army’s snakebite treatment center. Unable to cure the patient, he was referred to Dharan-based BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences for further treatment.

As the hospital was far away from the center, BK died on the way. 

Likewise, a 14-year-old girl from Belaka Municipality-2, Asmita Rai, had died of snakebite in June. Locals have now established a community snakebite treatment center in the name of the deceased girl. 

In recent days, cases of snakebite have significantly increased. But it’s not easy to get timely treatment as treatment centers are not easily accessible. Furthermore, treatment centers often face lack of anti-snake venom, the medicine required to cure snakebite patients. 

“The locals are always late to bring snakebite patient for treatment which complicates the treatment,” said a technician assigned by army to cure snakebite patients in Gaighat, adding, “In case of the youth, he could have been saved if he was admitted to our center on time.” 

Concerned over the increase in snakebite cases, Army has operated snakebite treatment center in Gaighat of Udayapur since May. As of now, the center has provided treatment to 74 persons. Of the total patients admitted to the center, seven were admitted on May, 33 in June and 34 in July. 

Rajesh Bhattarai, a technician working at Asmita Community Snakebite Treatment Center, informed that snakebite patients arrive from Belaka and Chaudandi municipalities of Udayapur and other parts of Sunsari as well for treatment. 

The number of snakebite patients has been increasing each year at Itahari Community Snakebite Treatment Center as well. A total of 593 persons have received treatment here since May. Of them, most patients (237 people) had received treatment in June whereas 71 had been admitted in July, 100 in May. 

Last year, 75 patients were admitted to community snakebite treatment center of Itahari in May, 164 in June, 250 in July. The number of snakebite patients remains high from May to July. Doctors involved in curing snakebite cases say women suffer the most from snakebite cases as they need to go to the field for collecting fodder. 

Worried by the increasing number of snakebite patients, the army’s eastern division headquarters has deployed a team of health professional led by a senior doctor. The army had established the snakebite treatment center in Itahari equipped with anti-snake venom and medical team in 2012. 

Snakebite patients from the eastern hill districts and rural areas of the southern plains approach the Itahari-based snakebite treatment center. The center, however, is not fully equipped. 

“In severe cases, we have to refer the patients elsewhere as we do not have ICU facility,” said Dambar Timalsina, a health professional working at the snakebite treatment center. 

Apart from Itahari, the army is operating another snakebite treatment center in Charaali barracks of Jhapa and Letang of Morang. Altogether 420 patients have received treatment in Jhapa. 

Private hospitals—B&C, Birta City and Manmohan Hospital—are also providing treatment to snakebite patients. 

In Biratnagar, private hospitals including Nobel Hospital, Green Cross and Birat Nursing Hospital have been providing treatment to snakebite patients. Private hospitals do not have records of the number of snakebite patients. 

Government hospitals in the eastern region mainly BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences and Koshi Hospital are also providing treatment to snakebite patients. 

Despite efforts of the army and private hospitals to provide treatment to snakebite patients from Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari and Udayapur, snakebite patients are dying on their way to receive treatment. 

“Snakebite patients are deprived of timely treatment due to lack of means to reach hospitals or treatment centers,” said Jaya Narayan Chaudhary, ward chairperson of Ramdhuni, Sunsari. 

Chaudhary’s 24-year-old son, Ajay, died on Thursday due to snakebite when he was spraying pesticides in their agro farm. 

Locals cite lack anti-snake venom as one of the reasons behind the deaths of snakebite patients. The government has announced to provide anti-snake venom free of cost but its supply is very low.

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