//Military help cuts down snake bite fatalities in Burdwan

Military help cuts down snake bite fatalities in Burdwan

Statesman News Service
PANAGARH, Feb. 1. — The Military Hospital at Panagarh in Burdwan has succeeded in cutting down deaths due to snakebites drastically, thereby earning accolades from all quarters besides the local folks. According to the Army, Burdwan district has been witnessing the highest number of snake bite deaths in the country since the past few years. The hospital that succeeded over a number of critical viper  bitten cases has emerged as a definite resort for the snakebite cases since the last two and a half decades. The Army deserves a pat for allowing the civilians to get the benefit of quality treatment in the crucial hours.

Snakebite cases from different villages of Burdwan, besides from adjacent Birbhum and Bankura districts are hurried to the Military Hospital in Panagarh very often. The military medical services executives stated that even the subdivisional hospitals refer snakebite cases to their hospital and they try their best to treat each patient and save their valuable lives. Major General Saibal Mukherjee, deputy director of medical services, Eastern Command said: “Burdwan witnesses 8,000 snakebite cases every year and out of that there are at least 800 casualties. So the efficient functioning of the hospital was highly required. We are quite happy to note the positive performance by our hospital staff here.”

However, the Burdwan district health administration has refused to accept the casualty figure due to snakebites in the district. Dr SK Sarangi, CMOH, Burdwan said: ‘The figure supplied by the Army is absurd and we are curious to know where from they have received such a baseless database.”
Majority of the snakebite victims, said Colonel AK Dutta, Commanding Officer of the Panagarh Base, were rural folks and they prefer witchcraft and traditional healing methods. He said that the other problem was non-availability of anti-snake venom (ASV) in peripheral hospitals and the cost factor involved. Each ASV vial costs Rs 500 in the market. The Panagarh Military Hospital besides having ample stock of ASV, has got well-trained surgeons to attend snake bitten patients. Lt Colonel Kannan Narayanan, a surgeon said: “We receive on an average 150 snakebite cases annually mainly from different parts of Durgapur and Bolpur subdivisions in Burdwan and Birbhum.”

The Colonel said snakes of medical importance seen in this part of Bengal were saw-scaled viper, Russell’s viper, cobra and kraits. Vasculotoxic and nephrotoxic features are characteristic of saw-scaled viper and Russell’s viper. Intracerebral haemorrhage, cerebral infraction and pulmonary edema can occur after being envenomed by the vipers. He said that neurotoxic polypeptides and phospholipases of snake venom cause paralyses by blocking transmission at the neuromuscular junction. Paralytic symptoms are characteristic of most elapids such as krait and cobra.

Bom Sarkar, a 10-year-old boy of Bonkati village near Panagarh, Tapas Chandra Saw (27), of Dhandabag and Kartik Pal (32), of Palashdiha in Durgapur, Shubhajit Roy (13), of Ilambazar, Birbhum got a new lease of life after being rushed to the Panagarh Military Hospital recently. The Military Hospital underwent a research work pondering across a database collected following the snakebite cases between June 1995 and April 1998. In all, 273 cases were taken into account. After proper clinical evaluation, ASV, according to the research work, was administered in all the cases. Out of the 273 cases, 88 persons were bitten by poisonous snakes. The age range was between 2 and 65 years with 65 males and 23 females. The hospital authorities observed that there was delay of 30 minutes to 25 hours before the patients reached the hospital. Vasculo toxic and nephrotoxic features were seen in 45 cases and neurotoxic features were seen in 49 cases.’

The Military Hospital in Panagarh is of mid-zonal status and has a 149-bed capacity. The Army is planning to enhance the bed capacity to 250 soon. An intensive care unit with 4 bed arrangements is also on the anvil. Colonel Dutta, the commanding officer said: “This hospital caters to the need of locals besides the Army personnel and we felt it urgent to equip the hospital with modern equipment and additional care facilities. To equip the military medical personnel with knowledge about reptiles in a better way, the base authority recently invited Mr Romulus Whitaker, consultant, USAID on wild life management and environment education, who also runs a snake park and crocodile park in Madras in a two-day workshop inside the base camp.