THE World Health Organisation launched a new website this week dedicated to information about venomous snakebites – a special concern for Cambodia, which lacks anti-venoms for many varieties, a WHO official said Thursday.
In Southeast Asia, Cambodia and Laos have the greatest need for appropriate antivenoms and education about the treatment of venomous snake bites, said Ana Padilla, a snake venom expert at the WHO.
Antivenoms, antidotes usually developed from snake venom, can prevent paralysis, amputation or death from snakebites, Padilla said.
According to a 2009 WHO report titled Snake Bite Management in Cambodia, “None of the antivenoms currently supplied to health facilities by the Ministry of Health are known to be effective against the venoms of Cambodian snake species.” The report recommended that at least three ineffective Indian-made antivenoms be immediately withdrawn from use in Cambodia for this reason.
“The antivenoms manufactured in Thailand are appropriate for the snake species in Cambodia,” Padilla said, adding, however, that there is very little reliable data available on snakebites or related deaths in Cambodia.
“The problems happen in the rural areas,” Padilla said. “Figures are often fragmented because they come from hospital-based assistance, but many of the victims of snakebites do not reach hospitals.”
The government should make the appropriate antivenoms available in clinic settings in rural communities, she added. One positive result of the 2009 report, Padilla said, is that “the Ministry of Health has made the snake bite problem a part of its agenda”.
Heng Bun Keat, director of the ministry’s Food and Drug Department, said he did not know how many snakebite cases or related deaths occurred in Cambodia each year. “Antivenom serums are available only at state hospitals,” he added.
According to the WHO, as many as 17 venomous snakes can be found in Cambodia.