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Global Community Must Take Action Against Snakebite Envenoming

The Lancet Global Health: WHO’s Snakebite Envenoming Strategy for prevention and control
Ren Minghui, assistant director general for communicable diseases at WHO, and colleagues from Tanzania and WHO

“…A key aspect of this [new snakebite] strategy will be to engage and empower communities in preventing venomous snakebites and increasing training to provide better treatment. … Success [against snakebites] will … depend on accelerating the development of antivenoms and, crucially, building a sustainable market for safe, effective treatments. … [I]ntegrating an approach to prevention, treatment, and management of snakebite envenoming, in which the community is fully engaged, into national health policy and health systems will be crucial. Tackling the underlying social, cultural, and economic barriers to health care that many victims of snakebite experience will lead to earlier treatment and more effective outcomes. … Reducing the number of snakebite-related deaths and disabilities by 50% by 2030 is achievable, as they are mostly preventable. But WHO cannot do this alone. When we launch the [global strategy], we will call on governments, health professionals, researchers, international health agencies, antivenom manufacturers, philanthropists, and other stakeholders for their support in its implementation” (5/22).

STAT: Snakebites are on the rise as snakes migrate with climate change
Walter Ochieng, medical officer, health economist, and Aspen New Voices fellow

“…To stem [the] rising tide of death and disability [from snakebites], health systems must begin preparing now. … A few things should be done — and urgently. Countries need to update their maps of snake habitats and educate communities about new threats they may face from venomous snakes. Because different antivenoms are needed for different snakebites, this mapping will also help determine what antivenoms are needed where. Governments should consider providing manufacturers with incentives like tax breaks to resume production of antivenoms and to lower their prices for these drugs. … It is also important to begin funding research on promising universal antivenom candidates to treat bites from different snake species and on lifesaving antidotes like the antiparalytic drug neostigmine. … To be sure, these actions should not distract from the root cause of the problem. Global efforts to mitigate and reverse climate change must accelerate. The implementation of public health actions now will save millions of lives over the next decade, and avoid crippling disabilities…” (5/24).