by Mohammad Afzal Mahmood, Dale Halliday, Robert Cumming, Khin Thida Thwin, Mya Myitzu, Julian White, Sam Alfred, David A. Warrell, David Bacon, Win Naing, Htay Aung, Myat Myat Thein, Nyein Nyein Chit, Sara Serhal, Myat Thet Nwe, Pyae Phyo Aung, Chen Au Peh
Every year millions of people in developing countries suffer from snakebite, causing a large number of deaths and long term complications. Prevention and appropriate first aid could reduce the incidence and improve the health outcomes for those who suffer bites. However, many communities where snakebite is a major issue suffer from a lack of information about prevention and first aid measures that a family or community member could take to prevent severe envenoming, complications and poor outcomes. Myanmar suffers from a high burden of snakebites with a large number of deaths. As part of a health services and community development program, a community survey was conducted to identify communities’ knowledge about snakebite and their sequelae, and knowledge and practice about first aid and health services use.
4,276 rural residents of Kyaukse and Madaya townships in the Mandalay region were recruited by cluster sampling, involving random selection of 144 villages and random sampling of 30 households from each village. One adult member of each household was interviewed using a structured questionnaire.
The incidence of snakebite was 116/100,000 people. Respondents reported 15 different types of snakes in the area, with Russell’s Viper, Cobra and Green snakes as the most common. 88% of the people informed that working in the fields and forests was when most of the bites occur. A majority knew about snakebite prevention methods such as wearing long boots. However, only a few people knew about the specific symptoms caused by snakebites. Only 39% knew about the correct methods of first aid. More than 60% mentioned tourniquet as a first aid method, though this may cause significant complications such as ischaemia of the limb. 88% said that they would take a snakebite victim to a government hospital, and 58% mentioned availability of antivenom as the reason for doing this. At the same time, the majority mentioned that traditional methods existed for first aid and treatment and 25% mentioned at least one harmful traditional method as an effective measure that they might use.
The community is aware of snakebites as a major public health issue and know how to prevent them. However, the high incidence of snakebites point to lack of application of preventive methods. The community recognise the need for treatment with antivenom. However, inadequate knowledge about appropriate first aid methods, and a reliance on using tourniquets require a targeted education program. Existing knowledge in communities, albeit insufficient, provides a good starting point for mass media educational campaigns.
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