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India leads world in snake-bite deaths

Nov. 4, 2008 at 7:19 PM   |   Comments

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- About 20,000 people die of snakebites worldwide each year, more than half of them in India, a study reveals.

The study published by the Public Library of Science Medicine, based in the United States, said about 428,000 people are poisoned by bites from venomous snakes every year, the BBC reported Tuesday. Most of the bites and deaths occur in South and Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The researchers, headed by Janaka De Silva at the University of Kelaniya in Sri Lanka, said their figures are almost certainly underestimates. Most bites occur in rural areas and may not be reported to authorities.

India had the largest number of reported venomous bites, about 80,000 a year with 11,000 deaths. Sri Lanka ranked second in bites, with about 33,000 a year.

"The fact that snakebite varies geographically and seasonally, that it is mainly a rural tropical phenomenon where reporting and record keeping is poor and that health-seeking behavior is diverse with traditional treatments being sometimes preferred to Western medicine, all contribute to the difficulties faced when studying its epidemiology," the report said.

About 600 of the 3,000 snake species are venomous enough to be dangerous to humans.

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