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Hospitals in Urgent Need of Snake Anti-venom

Two hundred and fifty victims of snake bite have died in the last three weeks in Plateau and Gombe states, following an acute scarcity of snake anti-venom drug in the country. The figure represents the number of confirmed deaths from three snake treatment centres – General Hospital, Kaltungo, Ali Mega Pharmacy, Gombe and Comprehensive Medical Centre, Zamko, Plateau State. A correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), who visited the three medical outfits, met other victims in critical situations, with some of them left on bare floors as the doctors said they were helpless without the anti-venom.

The Carpet Viper is a venomous endemic to West Africa and is responsible for more human fatalities due to snakebite than all other African species combined.vial_sl

The snake anti-venom drug – Echitab Plus ICP polyvalent and Echitab G monovalent – had not been supplied to the country since August, throwing the treatment centres into crisis after the last vials were used up in the first week of October.

Echitab Plus ICP, produced at Instituto Clodomiro Picado, University of Costa Rica, treats bites from all venomous snakes in Nigeria, while Echitab G, produced by Micropharm Ltd, United Kingdom, is solely for carpet viper bites. Medics, who spoke with NAN at the three treatment centres, said that the cases of snake bites were usually very common during the harvest season.

“We receive an average of 50 victims every day. Some arrive here in very critical conditions and we just have to watch them die because we are helpless,” Abubakar Abdullahi Aliyu, Managing Director, Aliyu Mega Pharm*cy, told NAN in Gombe. He said that more than 70 victims had died in the last three weeks following the lack of anti-venom to treat them, adding that some came from Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi, Borno and Plateau states.echis_ocellatus_west_africa_carpet_viper           West African Carpet Viper

“An average of six deaths are recorded daily. If you go to the snake treatment centre at the Kaltungo General Hospital, you will pity the victims; the lucky ones among them get supportive treatment, while many are left to fate since the drug are not available. “Between August and October, we received 750 victims. We were given 700 vials of the anti-venom on August 31, but we exhausted them before October. Many people are just dying. It is a major crisis,” he stated. Aliyu said that the only available drug – Indian anti-venom – was not as effective in the treatment of the bites from carpet vipers, the commonest poisonous snakes in the country.

“We have tried the Indian anti-venom, but it does not elicit much response. Sometimes, we give six vials and more to a patient, but the effect will be minimal. If we had Echitab drug, one dose is enough to cure a patient,” he said. The pharmacist urged the Federal Government to promptly step in to assist Echitab Study Group, the outfit coordinating the supply and distribution of the Echitab drug, so as to make them available. The Snake Treatment Centre at the Kaltungo General Hospital, Gombe State, equally presented a sorry sight with helpless patients gasping for breath while the medics watched helplessly. Dr. Abubakar Ballah, the Snakebite Treatment Officer, told NAN that the situation was “sad and scary”.

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