Know about Snakes to Avoid Snakebites

In ancient Chinese medicine, snakes are seen as wind-damp herbs, used to alleviate pain and stiffness of the body and were widely used to condition the body in martial art. In modern medicine, pit viper venom is used to treat hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

The word snakes, generates a sensation of creepy, secretive and stealthy feelings and the visual of serpent probably generates the second most common phobia among individuals around the world known as ophidiophobia.

It is no more an unknown fact that the WHO included “snake bite”, in the list of neglected tropical disease in the year 2009 and in the year 2017, snake bite envenoming was added to the priority list of neglected tropical disease.

The following year in 2018, in the 71st World Health Assembly, WHO adopted a comprehensive resolution for coordinated response to address the global burden of snake bite envenoming as one related to neglected tropical disease.

The regional action plan adopted by WHO for prevention and control of snake bite envenoming in South-East Asia 2022-2030, aims to accelerate progress to reduce snake bite related deaths and disability by 50% by 2030 in line with global strategy. 

Snakes, are dreaded animal because of their venom that inflict the victim with harmful inflammatory and neurotoxic effects like sever pain and paralysis, hemotoxic effect like coagulopathy and blood hemorrhage, myotoxic effect leading to sever muscle necrosis. 

In the face of wide prevalence of ophidiophobia across world along with the reality of toxic effect of snake bite, snakes are the single animal that have been fantasized across time and region the most, among individuals and used vividly in mythological and religious stories, in jewelry & tattoo designs and also in the emblem. The medical fraternity has long been using the snake as a symbol of medicine and medical profession. 

The ancient Greek God of medicine had the snake figure having a magical healing touch, from where the present-day medical symbol garnered the emblem of two snakes coiled around a staff.  Even the WHO emblem consists of UN symbol surmounted by a staff with a snake coiling around as a representation of medicine and medical professional.

At this juncture of time, we need to think better of about the existence of two snakes coiled around a staff as a mark of medicine and medical professional. We need to reevaluate and reconsider the perspective of medical practitioners and healers about the snake venom. 

Snake venom, basically a composition of diverse array of larger proteins and peptide that results in wider variety of pharmacological and toxicological effects on its victims. The venom comprises a range of 50-200 components, distributed in dominant and secondary families, presented in the form of multiple proteins and peptide isoform, responsible for their unique biological action. 

In general perspective, venom is treated as a source of death but from medical science point of view it is also an agent to diagnose and cure a variety of disease on humans.

Since centuries, medical practitioners belonging to different belief systems like Ayurveda using it in ascites, Unani practitioners use it as aphrodisiac, hepatic stimulant, tonic in collapsed condition.

In homeopathy, the cobra venom is used to treat many ailments primarily related to lungs, heart, nerve system, ovary and it is especially prescribed to treat vascular problems of the heart accompanied by anginal pain.

In ancient Chinese medicine, snakes are seen as wind-damp herbs, used to alleviate pain and stiffness of the body and were widely used to condition the body in martial art. In modern medicine, pit viper venom is used to treat hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Snake venom is also a possible potent source to act as an anti-hypertensive, anti-cancer, analgesic, antileukemic, antiplatelet agent, anti-arthritic, myotonic and many more unexplored ailments. The single most effective antidot for snake bite comes from snake venom itself.  

The venomous snake the prime mover of death during snake bite are the driver of cure from many ailments.

Famous philosopher Paracelsus said, “Poison is in everything and nothing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.” So, we need to understand the snakes and their behavior along with variation in geographical condition, their gender, diet, season and age, prime deciding factor in deciding the composition of venom, instead of hating them and wishing to get rid of them from the planet earth.

We need to learn to live with them by adopting certain behaviors. We should keep our surrounding clean, free of debris and garbage, a potential shelter for the snake. We need to focus on the storage of our grains that attracts the rodents and the snakes as well.

While sleeping on bed we should use our mosquito net to secure our bed properly by tucking the net underneath the bedding mattress. Using flashlights while walking at night along with long pants and closed shoes.

Over the knee boots are specifically prescribed for the farmers, herdsman and others who trade on grassy bushy areas for their work. Snakes generally bite the lower body after being stepped on and wearing long boots would save many lives during their working hour. 

In case of receiving snake bite, the victim should lie down and immediately be taken to the nearby health care unit.

At the policy implementation level, each primary health care center should be provided with anti-venom along with the protocol for the venom efficacy. Mass awareness along with certain precautionary measures can save many lives and also open the gate to the opportunity of multiple therapeutic use of snake venom. 

It is better to build a public discourse around snake and snakebites, so that the deaths happening due to snakebites can be avoided.

The initiative of Avoidable Death Network (ADN), University of Leicester is a pioneering work in this direction to raise awareness and prevent deaths happening due to snakebites. It is essential that we build the capacity of the communities so that we learn how to co-exist and not become the victim of snakebites. 

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