Rising snake bites in Nepal: A cause for concern

Gobinda Prasad Pokharel

On May 16th, two young brothers, 13-year-old Grish Pahadi and 3-year-old Grishma Pahadi, tragically lost their lives due to snake bites in Dudhauli Municipality-1 Kurthauli of Sindhuli. The snake bit Grish on his left finger and Grishma on his left leg while they were sleeping in their cement block house with a tiled roof.

With the beginning of April, the cases of snakebite have started to increase in Terai and central hilly areas of Nepal. Shukraraj Tropical Hospital in Kathmandu has also seen an increase in snakebite patients over the past month. According to the hospital’s director, Dr. Manisha Rawal, the number of patients is gradually increasing from 1-2 per day to 3–4 per day. On Monday alone, three snakebite patients were being treated at the hospital. Dr. Rawal informed me that patients come from districts surrounding Kathmandu such as Kavre, Bhaktapur, Nuwakot, Dhading, and Gorkha.

Snakebite cases in Nepal are most common from April to October, and experts predict that the number will continue to rise with the onset of summer. Snake researcher Kamal Devkota explains that there are many reasons for the increase in snake bites during these months. Snakes come out when the ground heats up during the summer when it rains during monsoon season and water enters in the holes.  Additionally, this is also the time for planting crops, and snakes come out for breeding in April or May.

Most snakebite cases in Nepal occur in the Terai region. A study lead by Professor Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Sharma, rector of the BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, found that out of every 100,000 people in Terai, 261 are bitten by snakes each year, and 22 of them die. Snake bites are most common in rural areas and among farmers and poor people. Studies have shown that snake bites are more likely to occur when sleeping outside the house, going to fields or forests, or sleeping on the floor inside the house.

According to Dr. Sharma’s study, approximately 3,000 people die from snake bites each year in Nepal, with an estimated 37,661 cases occurring annually in 23 districts of Terai. The World Health Organization had previously stated that 20,000 cases of snakebite occur in Nepal each year, with 1,000 deaths resulting from them.

There are currently 84 species of snakes in Nepal, with about 21 being poisonous. Among them, Cobra, Karait, Roussell’s Viper, King Cobra, and Coral Snake (Karkat Naag) are the most venomous.

Read more on the originally published article in Ekantipur on 6th June of 2023.

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Gobinda Pokharel