At least, 19 Indians including doctors, toxicologists, medical researchers and social workers involved in saving lives of snakebite victims, along with the international community, will observe the first-ever International Snakebite Awareness Day on September 19. Among the Indians based in West Bengal, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and other states, who will observe the day, are a cardiologist and toxicologist Dr Sadanand Raut from Junnar in Pune district.
According to data released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Maharashtra reported the highest number of snakebite cases in 2017. West Bengal (30,621 cases) and Gujarat (5,584 cases) came at second and third positions. According to the World Health Organisation, at least 81,000 to 1.38 lakh people die from snakebites every year.
The burden of such deaths and related disabilities acquired are the highest in Africa, Asia and Latin America. India records a significantly high number of snakebite cases. Along with his wife Pallavi, the Rauts have been working in the backward areas of Junnar taluka, at least 80 km from Pune for the last two decades. Their sole aim, through their services at Vighnahar Nursing Home, has been to reach out to every snakebite victim and save his or her life.
“In our initial years, the victims would not know about the available medical care and that lives could be saved. They would take their own measures, visit temples and follow superstitious practices, but not opt for medical help,” said Raut, whose efforts have saved lives of over 4,000 snakebite victims.
The Rauts established a dedicated Snakebite Management Cell at least a decade ago. Operated by a team of doctors, this cell operates round the clock and answers emergency cases of snakebite incidents in this taluka. “With farmers involved in cultivating all kinds of crops and remaining engaged round-the-year, we notice that human-snake interaction and the instances of snakebites have increased in this region,” said Raut.
While the number of cases in this sugarcane belt of Pune district has risen over recent years, Raut’s team’s efforts in creating awareness and providing timely medical assistance is beginning to bring positive changes. The Rauts hope to cut on the heavy costs involved in treating snakebite victims and they are on the lookout for companies and volunteers who can help them in their cause.