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January 23, 2019

Expect more El Nino snakebites

EL NINO ALERT: Venomous serpent might be more active as rains start.
EL NINO ALERT: Venomous serpent might be more active as rains start.

Be on your guard - we might have more snakebites during the El Nino rains.

New evidence shows that snakes get into the biting mood during the weather changes brought about by the rains.

The findings, described in the latest issue of journal Science Advances, suggest that because snakes are coldblooded - rely on the environment to regulate body temperature - their behavior might be highly influenced by the changing weather patterns.

It is also likely that heavy rains often disturb the snake population, which forces them into closer contact with the human population.

“Our analysis shows that snakebites are associated with changes in temperature and rainfall across time, and that unusually high numbers of snakebites occur during the cold and hot phases of ENSO (El Nino and La Nina),” says the study.

Most of the research was focused in Costa Rica, where snakebite records are kept in great detail.

Kenya has a high snake population and according to a past report by KWS, there were 680 cases of snakebites that resulted in 81 deaths and 577 injuries between 2003 and June 2009.

National Museums of Kenya says the deadliest snakes in Kenya include the cobras and the puff adder.

Most facilities in arid areas suffer a biting shortage of anti-snake venoms. The study findings imply counties should now consider stocking those drugs as part of the El Nino preparedness strategy.

“Snakebites,” says the study lead author Luis Fernando Chaves, an ecologist at the Nagasaki University Institute of Tropical Medicine in Japan, “don’t get the attention they deserve, even though they are a major problem.”

The World Health Organisation says snakebites are neglected in Africa, where about one million cases are reported annually, mostly among women and children in poor villages.

If untreated, bites by venomous snakes can cause death or permanent disability and may result in limb amputation.

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