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Snake bites cost govt. staggering 70mn on anti-venum serum

Snake bites, a silent disaster in Sri Lanka, accounts for nearly 60,000 casualties annually, Health Ministry, Deputy Director Public Health Services Dr. Palitha Maheepala Herath said.

Addressing a National Forum on snake bite awareness yesterday at the BMICH in Colombo, he said snake bite treatment costs the Government a staggering Rs. 70 million on anti-venom serum alone.

He said that hospital admissions amount to nearly 40,000 annually while another 20,000 victims depend on various other methods such as Ayurveda treatment, etc.

"The Government or the Ministry of Health was unable to campaign without the support of all stakeholders which was important to address this issue," he said.

He thanked the Environment Foundation Limited, American Red Cross, World Wildlife Fund and the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society for taking the initiative to organise an awareness campaign week (June 14 to 20).

Dr. Kolitha Sellahewa of the Sri Lanka Medical Association said that after a snake bite, there was no need to carry the snake but to rush the victim to hospital. He said that a 20-minute test would reveal what kind of species had injected the venom.

He said that 97 per cent of bites were caused by Cobra, Russell’s viper and common Indian Krait.

However, he said that careful medical examination would reveal that most of the victims need not be treated with high doses of anti-venom serum because dry bites were a common occurrence.

EFL Chairperson Sharmini Ratwatte, International Conservation Union Biodiversity Head Vimukthi Weeratunga, leading Herpetologist Anslem de Silva and Snake Bite Project Coordinator Ruzmyn Vilcassim also spoke.

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