Foreign Agricultural Data about Snakebites

Snakebite is mainly a rural and occupational hazard. The highest incidence of snakebite is in South America, West Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia. In Mexico, they report 27,000 rattlesnake bites annually and 100 fatalities; the majority of patients are adults who work in agriculture or with cattle. In India with a large agricultural population there have been over

Table 32.1. Classification of venomous snakes in the world.



Ö Ô Sistrurus a ^ Crotalus rattlesnakes copperheads water moccasins (cottonmouths) pigmy rattlesnakes massasaugas true vipers, adders coral snakes cobras, kraits, mambas, terrestrial

Australian venomous snakes mangrove snake whip snake burrowing asps stiletto snakes sea snakes

Î5 Colubridae


Î5 Colubridae o Hydrophiidae

Source: Data from Davison, Schafer and Jones (4), Warrell (5), and White (6).

20,000 reported snakebite deaths annually for the last 100 years. Among Philippino rice farmers, cobra bites mostly afflict young males, with a death rate of 107 per 100,000 residents in one study. In parts of the Benue Valley in northeastern Nigeria, the incidence rate of bites is almost 500/100,000 annually with a mortality rate of more than 10%. In contrast, as Costa Rica transformed its rainforest into agricultural fields over four decades, its rate of snakebite deaths fell from 4.83 to 0.2/100,000 (5,13-15).

In tropical developing countries, snakebite is usually an occupational injury inflicted on the feet and ankles of agricultural workers, herders, and hunters who inadvertently step on a snake. It occurs most commonly during the summer in open fields, threshing yards, barns, irrigation channels and storage sheds. With night work, there is also risk from walking by thick grass or undergrowth. Special footwear that can deflect snakebites should be worn in high risk locations. In contrast to other agricultural areas, farmers in the Sucua canton of Ecuador had 72% of bites on upper extremities, due to their primitive farming technique of kneeling to plant or harvest (5,16-18).

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