Snakebites are well known medical emergencies and a cause of hospital admission in many countries. The true scale of this problem however is unknown because of inadequate reporting in almost every part of the world. TheSouth-East Asia Region is one of the world’s most affected regions, due to its high population density, widespread agriculture activities, presence of numerous venomous snakes and lack of necessary community awareness to address the problem.
Regardless of the increasing knowledge about the composition of snake venom and its mode of action, and a sound understanding of clinical features of envenoming, management of snakebites remains a challenge in the Region. Appropriate and timely use of anti-snake venom reduces morbidity and mortality. Although in the last few years production of anti-venom has increased, it is still well below the current estimated annual requirement of 10 million vials. In addition, available anti-venoms do not cover all the important venomous snakes of the Region. Mechanisms need to be developed to ensure timely access and availability of anti-venom to all needy persons. Public-private partnerships, intercountry support, involvement of national, regional, and global agencies are vital to effectively meet the challenge.
The WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia had developed and published Guidelines for the Management of Snakebites as a special issue of the South East Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health in 1999 followed by publication of the guidelines as independent regional document in 2011. Considering the new technical advances in the field, the guidelines have been revised with the help of regional and global experts. The geographical area specifically covered by this publication includes the South-East Asia Region of WHO. The venomous snake fauna of the South East Asia Region is rich and diverse. It varies within and between countries. Countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Republic of Korea, Philippines, Pakistan and Afghanistan may share many of the same medically-important species of snakes that occur in the South-East Asia Region and may find these guidelines useful. This publication aims to pass on a digest of available knowledge about all clinical aspects of snake-bite to medically trained personnel.
I am confident that these revised guidelines will help Member States to improve the management of snakebites in the peripheral health services and thereby reduce the morbidity and mortality due to snakebites.
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh
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