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By: Keats Compton

Secretary General/ CDA

The latest reported case of snakebite, at Anse la Raye, has generated a degree of media coverage unheard of in any previous incident.

Unfortunately, the reports are riddled with inaccuracies, which can only serve to misinform the public, thereby increasing the widespread negative public perception of the fer-de-lance in particular, as well as our other three endemic species, none of which are venomous.

The facts of this particular case are as follows:

• The patient was treated with the prescribed anti-venom upon arrival at Victoria Hospital

• The patient was never ‘fighting for his life’

• His leg was not going to be amputated, as there was no dead issue around the wound

• Surgical incisions were made in the region of his calf (fasciotomy)

• The fer-de-lance is not ‘one of the most dangerous snakes in the world’

The patient was never admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which manages critically ill patients, and is currently recovering in Ward 9, and was able to raise his bandaged leg off his bed, demonstrating his control of that limb on Mon September 16th. He was discharged on Sat. Sept 21st.

The six (6) most dangerous snakes in the world are: the Saw Scaled Viper; the King Cobra; the Tiger snake; the Faint Banded Sea Snake, and the Black Mamba.

It is worth noting that between Nov. 2007 and Mar. 2018, there were 104 reported snakebites in St. Lucia, resulting in three (3) fatalities, less than 3%. Snakebite was declared a neglected tropical disease by the WTO in 2017, and there have been international conferences in French Guyana and Geneva, with Caribbean representation by the Caribbean Doctors Association (CDA). The next conference on snakebite and environmental diseases is scheduled to take place in French Guyana in March 2020.

There have been public service announcements on the management of snakebite by Dr. Martin Didier, explaining what needs to be done in the event of a bite. Victoria Hospital staff work closely with toxicologist Dr. Dabor Resiere of the University Hospital of Martinique in snakebite management. Dr. Resiere is also the President of the CDA. Additionally, the CDA signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture on behalf of the Forestry Division.

The fer-de-lance venom has beneficial medicinal properties, hence a good reason to co-exist with the snake. In fact, the Kentucky Reptile Zoo in the US breeds our snake in captivity, and sells its venom, along with that of others, for in excess of US$200.00 a gram, for research. St. Lucia does not currently benefit from this area of economic activity!

The WTO designation of snakebite as a neglected tropical disease will undoubtedly lead to more emphasis on education, improvement in healthcare, and ongoing research. We would welcome media assistance in keeping the public informed of such positive developments. PREVENTION is the best medicine.

For anyone venturing into a snake zone, the attached flyer provides safety tips.

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