Alarm as snake population soars in Baringo as anti-venom runs out

Alarm as snake population soars in Baringo as anti-venom runs out

Cases of snakebites are on the rise in Baringo County amid fears that effective anti-venom products will soon be unavailable in hospitals.

Experts have linked the rise to climate change which has reduced the number of animals that prey on venomous snakes.

Dusk in the hot, low-lying parts of Baringo County feeds the fears of residents, they retreat to their homes but before they can settle in for the night, they must check every corner. Searching, not for monsters but for snakes.

Many here have met the deadly creatures lying in dark corners ready to spit out fatal doses of poison.

Elizabeth Kochei’s limp reminds her to remain on the alert. She has been the victim of a snakebite twice, once in 2011 and again three months ago. She was bitten on both ankles and one leg is now numb.

In Radat Village, Sandai Yator struggles to come to terms with the idea of using his left hand henceforth. He lost his right hand after a snake bit him four years ago.

Despite his struggles Sandai is grateful to be alive.

Farther away, in Mogotio, Eunice Tarus is mourning her two year-old daughter after a snake crept into their iron-sheet home and bit her.

While Baringo County has always had a large snake population, the situation has become worse in recent years. This situation mirrors environmental changes.

Thirty-four cases of snakebites were reported at the Baringo County Referral Hospital last year, the number of fatalities unknown.

Worldwide, it is estimated that every year 5 million people will be bitten by snakes, and over 100,000 will die.

There are 12 types of venomous snakes in Kenya, among them, the cobra, puff adder and black mamba that are prevalent in the county.

Gilbert Kiptalam crisscrosses Baringo County teaching locals the dos and don’ts.

The easiest way to keep the snakes away, he says, is to keep a container of water a little distance from the house.

If despite all this one gets bitten by a snake, one must rush to the nearest hospital where medics can administer anti-venom.

But scientists are now warning that the last batch of one of the most effective antidotes for snake bites, Sanofi Pasteur’s anti-venom, is set to expire in June 2016.

There are alternative products but their effectiveness has not been established.

Faced with the possibility of this shortage, residents now finding it an easier option to prevent rather than treat snake bites, taking every precaution not to come face to face with the snakes of Baringo County.

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Story By Wilkister Nyabwa
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