Venomous snakes are found all over the world and have wide distribution, except a few islands and frozen regions.1 Since India is a tropical country, snakebites are relatively common.
Snakebite require medical attention as soon as possible 7 as snakebite envenomings causes organ and tissue damage, specific to each species of snake.1 Snakebite has been included in the WHO’s ‘neglected tropical disease’ in 2009.5Out of India’s 270 species of snake, 60 are venomous.
3 The common venomous snakes in India, called ‘The Big Four’ includes the Indian cobra (Naja naja), common krait (Bungarus caeruleus), Russell’s viper (Daboia russelii) and Saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus).3,5 Estimates indicate India has the highest snakebite mortality in the world. According to the World Health Organization, the number of bites is estimated to be around 83,000 per annum and 11,000 deaths per annum.9 Studies indicate deaths due to snakebite occurs predominantly in rural areas(97%), more common in males(59%) and generally around rainy monsoon months between June to September.
4Snakebite is regarded as an occupational hazard and it is generally associated with occupations such as farming, plantation work, herding, etc,.5 For example, rural farmers with their non-mechanised, low-cost farming methods have high risks of snakebite, with their hands and feet being the most frequent sites of snakebites in Asia.6Some of the factors which are responsible for the high mortality rate include lack of proper transportation facilities to tertiary health care, lack of knowledge for providing first aid and practice of traditional first aid measures which may aggravate the action of venom.
7,8 The traditional methods of first aid in cases of snakebite like application of tourniquets, electric shock, incisions and suction have been found to be harmful by increasing spread of venom and causing local tissue damage at site of snakebite.3,9The first aid treatment involves immobilisation at the site of snakebite and quick transport to nearby tertiary care hospital for administration of anti-snake venom (ASV) which is the mainstay of treatment.7 ASV is a polyvalent antidote against snake venom, effective against all the ‘Big Four’ species of snake which is the specific treatment in India.9Clear understanding of first aid measures can retard or slow down morbidities caused due to snakebite, like tissue necrosis, gangrene formation, muscle paralysis, extensive bleeding and even permanent disability.2,5This study assesses the general population regarding their knowledge on first aid measures to be provided in case of snakebite and provides the appropriate first aid measures which need to be followed.
By creating an awareness of first aid measures in snakebite, it can help in bringing down the mortality and morbidity caused due to snakebite in India.