16 days ago

Don't panic, govt has enough Russell's Viper antivenom, says health minister

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Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Samanta Lal Sen assured the public that government hospitals have sufficient stocks of antivenom for Russell's Vipers, locally known as 'Chandrabora', and urged people to avoid spreading misinformation.

"There have been rumours of vaccine shortages and patient deaths," Dr Sen said on Thursday.

"This is simply not true. Spreading such misinformation can cause unnecessary panic. Russell's viper antivenom is available in every hospital across the country. Even in the unlikely event of a temporary shortage at a particular facility, we will ensure immediate restocking to avoid any crisis," he added.

The health minister spoke at a scientific seminar organised by the Bangladesh Society of Medicine in Dhaka.

Regardless of the type of snake, Dr Samanta Lal Sen said timely arrival at a hospital is the key for effective treatment of snakebite cases.

At the seminar, State Minister for Health Rokeya Sultana said self-medication is quite frequent in the country, including the misuse of antibiotics without a prescription.

She advised against seeking treatment for snakebites from traditional healers or ojhas.

Professor Deen Md Nurul Haque, vice-chancellor of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said bites from Russell's Vipers are much less frequent.

Compared to snakebite, Prof Haque said dog bites are far more common, with an average of 665 cases daily. Drowning also claims a large number of lives each year.

"Let's be aware of the risks, but there is no need to panic," Prof Haque advised.

Prof Dr Titu Miah, director general of the Directorate General of Medical Education, said antivenom supplies have reached all hospitals. And medical professionals are well-trained in administering this treatment.

However, delays in reaching hospitals increase the death rate for snakebite cases. Many of these critical patients could be saved with timely access to intensive care, he commented.

Dr Ahmedul Kabir, additional director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), criticised recent campaigns promoting the killing of snakes.

He said snakes play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance, and their venom is used in some medicines.

"There is a lot of misinformation circulating about Russell's Vipers," Dr Kabir said. "One common misconception is that it is among the world's ten most venomous snakes. This is simply not true."

According to them, Russell's Vipers have been found in 27 districts across the country. However, this does not mean people in these areas need to be afraid to leave their homes. These snakes only bite when they feel threatened.

The experts also said that around 70 per cent of snakebite patients recover fully. The remaining 30 per cent who die usually do so due to delayed arrival at medical facilities.

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