Authorities in Kamuli District have revealed that they registered 186 snakebites and 16 snakebite -related deaths in the area in one year.
Dr Moses Lyagoba, the assistant Kamuli District health officer, on Wednesday said Nawanyago Sub-county tops the list with 37 snakebites recorded followed by Mbulamuti (34), Kisozi (32) and Wankole (26).
Dr Lyagoba attributed the high snakebite rates in the various sub-counties to the swampy and relatively warm areas that are habitable for the reptiles.
Last Friday, Alex Bagimba, 29, boda boda rider at Kamuli-Lubaga Mission Stage succumbed to a snakebite.
Following his death, Bagimba’s village mates claimed he had been poisoned until an autopsy conducted at Kamuli General Hospital revealed that he succumbed to snakebite.
His mother, Jennifer Mutesi, a resident of Nawango-Bugogolo Zone in Kitayunjwa Sub-county, said it’s hard to believe that her son succumbed to a ‘mere’ snakebite.
“He was our breadwinner and my ‘ambulance’ to collect my ARVs. He loved me too much and could not go to sleep or work without saying bye or goodnight; now he is gone,” she said.
Mr Ashraf Buyinza, 28, a resident in Kamuli, said last month he was bitten by a snake while he going to answer nature’s call in the night.
Mr Buyinza revealed he received treatment from a local snake doctor and got healed on the third day.
However, Dr Lyagoba advised residents to avoid walking outside during the night and be cautious in warm weather, saying it is when snakes are most-active.
He added that snakebites have become a neglected tropical disease whose management has been left to traditional healers.
“Sixteen snake-related deaths have been reported at health facilities in one year, meaning there are many cases being handled in the villages by the so-called ‘snake doctors’. Many cases go unreported because of myths, beliefs and fear,” Dr Lyagoba said.
He added: “It is even worse that government facilities rarely have anti-venom stock and victims have to be saved by private healthcare units at exorbitant costs.”
Mr Denis Kibira, the executive director of HEPS-Uganda said myths, misconceptions and lack of information about snakebites have made many people seek help of local herbalists
“We advocate for community education, research and surveillance, training of health workers and government provision of anti-snake venom in health facilities,” he said.
Dr Lyagoba explained that traditional healers mostly treat snakebites from serpents that have not released poisons into their fangs, arguing that not all snakes are poisonous or release poison when they bite.