In the last five years, there have been 490 deaths due to snakebites in Maharashtra while 1.43 lakh people have been bitten by snakes, according to the state Health department.
According to health authorities, till August this year, Maharashtra has seen 20,947 cases of snakebites and 126 deaths. Since last year, a global coalition of health organisations has observed September 19 as International Snakebite Awareness Day.
Dr Sadanand and Pallavi Raut, a doctor couple based in Narayangaon in Pune district, have been conducting awareness programmes about snakebites, They have helped treat nearly 4,700 people who have suffered venomous snakebites over several years. "We have recently launched the zero snakebite death project," said Dr Raut, president of the Vighnahar Medical Foundation. He also urged the government to make snakebite a notifiable disease.
Many are left permanently disabled or disfigured as a result of being bitten by venomous snakes, said Dr Raut, adding that the coalition of health organisations hoped that the International Snakebite Awareness Day will galvanise action around the issue.
At Narayangaon, Dr Raut and his team treat snakebite victims, most of whom are young farm labourers, children and women. "The treatment is costly… apart from anti-snake venom and IV fluids, oxygen ventilator support and surgical care is also needed," said Dr Raut.
According to the World Health Organisation, the number of people bitten by snakes each year globally could be as high as 5.4 million (54 lakh). WHO estimates also show that 81,000 to 1,38,000 people around the world die each year from snakebite.
In 2017, the WHO added snakebite to its list of highest-priority neglected tropical diseases. Last year, the World Health Assembly in Geneva also passed a resolution on snakebites and expressed hope that this will lead to more research and access to life saving anti-venoms for those in desperate need of treatment, Dr Raut told The Indian Express.