9,191 people died of animal bites across India in 2017-18, mostly from rural areas
That’s an average of 766 deaths a month over 12 months; Madhya Pradesh has recorded most deaths at 1,472, followed by Bengal and Maharashtra.mumbai Updated: May 21, 2018 11:15 IST
Between April 2017 and March this year, 9,191 people across India died of animal bites and stings from snakes and scorpions — the highest in five years — a reply from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to a Right to Information (RTI) query revealed.
This is an average of 766 deaths a month over 12 months. The latest data showed that from April 2018, there were 143 animal bite deaths in India, and 140 of them were from rural areas.
From April 2017 to March 2018, 8,759 of the 9,191 deaths – over 95% of the cases – were reported from rural areas.
According to Mumbai advocate Tushar Ramesh Bhosale, who filed the RTI, the number of deaths is indicative of poor medical facilities in India’s rural regions.
“This data is only a glimpse of what is actually happening on ground, and the number of deaths will only increase if anti-venom or anti-rabies vaccinations are not provided to the most remote healthcare facilities,” he said.
Madhya Pradesh recorded the most deaths – 1,472 – while Bengal and Maharashtra followed with 1,101 and 905 deaths respectively.
Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Odisha recorded between 400 and 700 deaths.
The number of deaths between April 2016 and March 2017 was 7,556, and between April 2015 and March 2016, 8,354 people died from animal bites and stings.
“Anti-venom is not being distributed,” said Romulus Whitaker, a Padma Shri award winner and world-renowned herpetologist, wildlife conservationist and founder of the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology, Chennai. “There are more than 50,000 snake bite deaths a year in India, which is a shame for the government as hardly any steps are being taken to control it.”
Ministry officials said the data was from their web-based portal of health management information system (HMIS) collected and compiled primarily at the peripheral levels, such as sub-centres, primary health centres, urban family welfare and post-partum centres, and hospitals and dispensaries.
“The data shows a gradual fluctuation between 2013 and 2016, with 7,000-8,000 cases every year. However, as we have incorporated more public and private health facilities, especially in rural areas, better reporting of incidents from across the country, have highlighted more cases over the past year,” said a senior officer from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
He said the data compiled by the ministry was only indicative of the number of deaths but did not collate which animals or reptiles were responsible for these deaths. “We can estimate that between 2013 and 2018, most of the cases were due to dog bites, followed by snake bites and monkey attacks. These are the primary causes of deaths. However, the data is also indicative of attacks by wild animals such as bears, jackals, leopards, wild boars, tigers, elephants, etc, and from rat bites, bull, cow, horse or other cattle attack incidents,” the official said.