Venomous snakebites kill between 81,000 and 138,000 people each year, and leave another 400,000 with permanent disabilities. This ranks it among the deadliest of neglected tropical diseases, alongside better-known ailments such as typhus and cholera.
For many years, the number was believed to be much lower. The World Health Organization had previously estimated that only 50,000 died from snakebites each year, and the problem – known as envenoming – was prioritized accordingly. In 2014, an enormous study documenting one million deaths in India concluded with surprising results. They found that 46,000 people were dying yearly from snakebites in India alone, five times more than the WHO had anticipated. The WHO subsequently doubled their global estimate from around 50,000 to their new range of 81,000 to 138,000.
Despite playing host to the world’s most venomous snakes (including the inland taipan, the most venomous animal in the world), Australia averages only two deaths from snakebites each year…
An Australian is typically a short drive from a well-equipped hospital carrying antivenom in cold storage. Australian doctors and others in the West can use advanced diagnostic equipment to determine the species of snake the patient was bitten by and administer highly effective species-specific antivenom.
An Indian victim, on the other hand, would typically face a long journey to the nearest clinic. For over 34 percent of Indian snakebite victims, it takes more than six hours to receive treatment.