1.2 million snakebite deaths in India from 2000 to 2019: Study | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

1.2 million snakebite deaths in India from 2000 to 2019: Study

By, Mumbai
Jul 08, 2020 01:04 AM IST

India has recorded 1.2 million snakebite deaths from 2000 to 2019, with an average of 58,000 deaths annually, a recent international study said.

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Close to 70% of deaths occurred in rural areas recorded during monsoon at low-altitude regions. Rate of deaths was highest across eight states – Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand. Most deaths were due to Russell’s vipers followed by kraits and cobras.

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Published in the peer-reviewed journal e-Life on Tuesday, the study was conducted by the Centre for Global Health Research (CGHR), University of Toronto, Canada, Oxford University, United Kingdom, the Madras Crocodile Bank, Chennai, Indian Council of Medical Research, Delhi, and St John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bengaluru.

“India is witnessing almost half of the world’s total snakebite deaths,” said professor David Warrell, author of the paper.

Overall, the study analysed 2,833 snakebite deaths from 6.11 lakh verbal autopsies in the Indian Million Death Study (MDS), nationally representative mortality survey, from 2001 to 2014, and assessed data over 20 years (2000-2019) covering 87,590 snakebites.

Venomous snakebites are medical emergencies that escalate to deaths due to killing by shock, paralysis, haemorrhage or acute kidney injury, the study said. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated snakebite as type A or priority disease and aims to reduce deaths by 50% by 2030.

“Snakebites need to be made a nationally notified disease in India. Health facilities in rural spaces across high-burden states are inadequate,” said Romulus Whitaker, author, and founder, Madras Crocodile Bank.

The study revealed gross underreporting of snakebites in India with the Union health ministry’s declaration of 15,500 deaths between 2003 and 2015, which was only one-tenth of 1.54 lakh deaths detected by MDS during the same period.

Whitaker added that government data reflects a fraction of what is happening on ground. “Anti-venom is not being distributed to resolve the issue though India has sufficient manufacturing capacity to produce large volumes,” said Whitaker.

The latest analysis identified an 18% increase in annual average deaths in India due to snakebites as against a Lancet study from October 2017 that reported 49,000 envenoming deaths every year. “Overall lifetime risk (before age 70) of being killed by snakebite is about 1 in 250, but in some areas, especially high burden states, lifetime risk reaches one in 100. While 50% of deaths occurred between the age group of 30 and 69 years, over a quarter of deaths were for children less than 15 years old,” said Prabhat Jha, author and director, CGHR.


Maharashtra witnessed a steep decline in deaths during this period but had some of the highest cases of snakebites over 15 years, according to the Centre’s data. The latest study however pointed out that while there was underreporting of data by the government, there were better medical facilities and faster response time for snakebite cases than other states allowing Maharashtra to be identified as a low burden for snakebite deaths. Independent herpetologist Kedar Bhide said that the state needed to declare compensation for snakebite deaths as it does for mortalities related to wild animals and identify such cases as a notified disease.

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