New publication! Snakebite victim profiles and treatment-seeking behaviors in two regions of Kenya: results from a health demographic surveillance system in Tropical Medicine and Health (BMC)
Permanent injury from a puff adder bite, Kenya, 2016
Back in 2016 or so, I nearly stepped on a headless and very dead spitting cobra on an island in Homa Bay, Kenya. The locals apparently weren’t satisfied with simply decapitating it, but smashed the head to bits presumably so it couldn’t come back to life and bite someone. That gave me a hair brained idea to do a research project on snakebites and I’m proud to say that the results of that work have been published today.
This work was a team effort under the auspices of the Nagasaki University Institute of Tropical Medicine. It couldn’t have happened without the incredible contributions of researchers, students and local partners,in Kenya, Japan and the United States.
Snakebites are a major cause of permanent injury and death among poor, rural populations in developing countries, including those in East Africa. This research characterizes snakebite incidence, risk factors, and subsequent health-seeking behaviors in two regions of Kenya using a mixed methods approach.
As a part of regular activities of a health demographic surveillance system, household-level survey on snakebite incidence was conducted in two areas of Kenya: Kwale along the Kenyan Coast and Mbita on Lake Victoria. If someone in the home was reported to have been bitten in the 5 years previous to the visit, a survey instrument was administered. The survey gathered contextual information on the bite, treatment-seeking behavior and clinical manifestations. To obtain deeper, contextual information, respondents were also asked to narrate the bite incident, subsequent behavior and outcomes.
8775 and 9206 households were surveyed in Kwale and Mbita, respectively. Out of these, 453 (5.17%) and 92 (1.00%) households reported that at least one person had been bitten by a snake in the past 5 years. Deaths from snakebites were rare (4.04%), but patterns of treatment seeking varied. Treatment at formal care facilities were sought for 50.8% and at traditional healers for 53.3%. 18.4% sought treatment from both sources. Victims who delayed receiving treatment from a formal facility were more likely to have consulted a traditional healer (OR 8.8995% CI [3.83, 20.64]). Delays in treatment seeking were associated with significantly increased odds of having a severe outcome, including death, paralysis or loss of consciousness (OR 3.47 95% CI [1.56; 7.70]).
Snakebite incidence and outcomes vary by region in Kenya, and treatment-seeking behaviors are complex. Work needs to be done to better characterize the spatial distribution of snakebite incidence in Kenya and efforts need to be made to ensure that victims have sufficient access to effective treatments to prevent death and serious injury.”