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Chhattisgarh or Naglok? Snakebites kill 494 in last three months

Shirish Khare | Updated on: 7 February 2017, 1:21 IST

The onset of the rainy season brings cheer to farmers all across the country but that's not where it ends. In Chhattisgarh, venomous death also comes knocking with monsoon clouds. Every year, there is a spurt in the cases of snakebites in hospitals all across the state, especially during monsoons.

The story is no different this season if the figures released by the state health department are anything to go by.

The autopsy reports sent by all government hospitals of Chhattisgarh to the department suggest as many as 494 people have died due to snakebites over the past three months. Worse still, the number could be much higher by the time the rains are over for this year.

The data is based on the reports received from 25 districts. The government hospitals of Gariaband and Mungeli districts are yet to send their reports.

The major cause for such a high number of deaths is the lack of anti-venom in district hospitals. Besides, there is an acute shortage of equipment and specialists in most of these hospitals.

Around 74 people have fallen prey to snakebites in Raigarh district during the past three months. It is followed by Rajnandgaon, the home district of the Chief Minister Raman Singh, where 48 people have lost their lives.

The hospitals at Janjgir-Champa, Mahsamund, Kabirdham, Sarguja, Korba, Narayanpur and Dhamtari among other districts are also flooded with the cases of snakebites.

A rise in numbers

The state of Chhattisgarh is not new to this phenomenon. However, there has been an unprecedented rise in cases of snakebites this year with over 1,000 cases being recorded so far. According to official data, over 500 people are killed by snakes in Chhattisgarh every year.

The districts of Durg, Raipur and Bastar are worst-affected this year. The situation is still unclear in Gariaband and Mungeli as no figures of snakebites have emerged from these districts so far.

The experts fear the actual number of deaths could be much higher as most patients fail to reach hospitals in the forest areas. Still, 112 people have been recorded dead in Durg, 84 in Bilaspur, 68 in Sarguja, 84 in Raipur and 69 in Bastar.

The real Naglok

The region around Farsa Bahar village in Jashpur district is known as 'Naglok' for its high density of snakes. It has around 70 species of snakes, including four varieties of the lethal Cobra and three varieties of Krait snakes.

The temperate climate and loose soil of the Jashpur region are considered conducive for snake breeding. The indiscriminate cutting of trees has only added to the problem.

Every year, the district witnesses the most number of deaths from snakebites. As per government data, approximately, 4,328 people have succumbed to snakebites in Jashpur district during the past five years.

While the year 2011-12 witnessed only 450 deaths, the total number of deaths recorded was 1,166 in 2014-15.

Surprisingly, only four people have lost their lives to snakebites in this district during the past four months.

A word of advice

Dr Yogendra Malhotra, a senior doctor at Raipur's Dr Ambedkar Memorial Hospital, has a word of advice for the victims of snakebites.

"The spot of the snakebite must be tied tightly with a cloth or a rope before taking the patient to the hospital. This will prevent the poison from spreading. The place where snakes have bitten must be cut with a new blade for the venom to flow out with blood. The wound must then be covered with an ice pack and the patient must be rushed to the hospital," he says.

"Never ever believe in witch-doctors for the treatment of snakebites," Malhotra adds.

"People in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are required to report the cases of snakebites to the police for treatment," informs Dr Prabir Chatterjee, Director, Chhattisgarh State Health Resource Centre.

This often results in a delay in the treatment resulting in the death of the patient. Experts are unanimous that this condition is irrational and must be done away with.

The district wise figures of the deaths during the past three months are given below -

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

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First published: 2 September 2016, 6:35 IST