Running Out of Snake Venom! Guide Launched To Solve Antivenom Shortage

cobra snake photo

Photo via lucaboldrini69 via Flickr CC

Around 250 million people are bitten by venomous snakes each year causing not only deaths, but also nearly 300,000 amputations annually - most of which could be avoided if anti-venom were on hand. But in many areas there's a shortage - and even impending failure of supplies - as anti-venom stocks run short. The World Health Organization is hoping to solve the issue by launching an online snake guide, showing where the poisonous species that do the most damaged are located, and what they look like, so that antivenom can be stocked in the right places. The Telegraph reports that because snake bites is a health issue often ignored by the countries where they occur the most, anti-venom prices went up and some manufacturers quite making it altogether. That means a serious shortage of the life- and limb-saving substance.

The World Health Organization's database was created "to enable users to easily identify the most important venomous snakes in their country, territory or area; see the distributions of each species; and find information about antivenom products for treating envenoming caused by their bites."

How this will benefit anyone other than doctors isn't clear, since the areas where a lack of anti-venom and number of annual snake bites is the most problematic are poor rural areas where access to a computer and internet to peruse the database is unlikely.

Still, access to every bit of information helps, though what would help more is a greater access to the appropriate anti-venom when needed. The numbers of snake bite incidents are huge, and as people move deeper into snake habitats, the run-ins are more and more likely to occur. And in some areas, fragmented habitat is actually a boon for snakes who favor "transition" areas between forest and farmland. That means farmer, beware.

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