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6,000 Bangladeshis die of snake bites annually: study

The deaths occur as almost all snakebite victims -- who are often housewives as snakes are attracted to kitchens for food -- seek treatment from gypsy snake-charmers, he said. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Dhaka (AFP) Aug 9, 2009
Bangladesh plans to educate snake charmers on how to help bite victims after a survey found 6,000 villagers die each year from snake attacks, officials said Sunday.

The study by the government and the University of Newcastle in Australia found that the deaths were about one in 100 of those bitten.

"Out of the total snakebite cases, at least 6,041 die every year as they don't get treatment or go to the doctors when it's too late," Sheikh Abul Hossain Milton, lead researcher of the university, told AFP.

"The situation is very severe. Snakebite deaths in Bangladesh are by far the largest in the continent and possibly the highest in the world."

The deaths occur as almost all snakebite victims -- who are often housewives as snakes are attracted to kitchens for food -- seek treatment from gypsy snake-charmers, he said.

"The gypsies try to drain poisoned blood by making multiple cuts on the bitten spot and also use charms or exorcising to treat the cases," he said.

"But in cases of cobra and krait bites, the vascular and the nervous systems are affected quickly, leading to deaths."

The director general of Bangladesh's health services, Shah Monir Hossain, said snake-charmers would be told that victims of cobra and krait bites needed professional medical care immediately.

"We have to raise the awareness level among the snake-charmers because rural people mainly seek treatment from them. The gypsies can bring the deaths figure down by referring the serious cases to hospitals," he said.

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