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Kitengela residents join awareness campaign on snakebite safety

Kenya Red Cross Kitengela, Kitevision CBO, Kenya Herpetofauna Working Group, Nature Kenya and Reptile Study Group Kenya conducted an information dissemination campaign to create awareness among residents on what to do when attacked by a snake.

The campaign was organized to mark International Snakebite Awareness Day.

The volunteers under the organizations held the talk at the Kenya Red Cross Grounds Kitengela.

During the talk, volunteers shared information on what to do after snake biting, safety tips, types of snakes found in Kajiado and neighbouring counties and the importance of the presence of snakes in nature through banners.

“Snakes are a very important part of our ecosystem. They are nature’s best pest control and play an integral role in keeping the number of rats and mice at bay. These rodents carry disease and destroy crops,” said Frank Swanapool, from KiteVison CBO.

Atubwa Howard, the Chairperson of Herpetofaurna Working Group said there were about 3,600 species of snakes globally and Kenya has 140 known species of snakes, where 75% are completely harmless while 25 per cent have venom with 10 per cent being the most venomous in the country and their bite victims could be treated using anti-venom.

Atubwa revealed that black mambas were the most venomous snakes in Kenya as well as Puff Adder, Cobra, and Boomslang.

He added that when one has been attacked by a snake, the most important thing is to visit the doctor as soon as possible.

“Before being administered the anti-venom, the doctor might ask the type of snake going by how it behaved so that they can administer an anti-venom which will stop the spread of the venom in the victim’s body,” added Atubwa.

In Kajiado County, the most common snakes are the black mamba, carpet snake, red cobra, brown spitting cobra and the puff adder.

Lea Chiko from Kitevison said that the best way to avoid getting injured by a snake is to leave them alone when you see one and not to attack it as most snakebites occurred when people try to capture or kill a snake.

When left alone, snakes present little or no danger to people. Snakes usually prefer to retreat when encountered but could become defensive if threatened.

She added that the hot season also causes an increase in the appearance of snakes, as they are cold-blooded animals.

“Right now, since it’s hot, you will find snakes roaming around to look for cooler areas hence finding snakes at your homes. The best thing to do when you see a snake is to leave it alone and call the necessary help like Nature Kenya. Parents should also be vigilant with their children when they are playing outside in bushes to make sure that they are at least playing in groups where they will be able to call for help faster when attacked by a snake,” she said.

Residents were also encouraged to walk with torches or flashlights during the night as snakes tended to show up during the evenings.

“Snakes may come out during the night especially when during the hot weather since the snakes will wait until nightfall and they can delay the hunting up to the time that the environment is cool during the evening. If you have a business to do outside let’s say going to the toilet or walking late at night, use a torch or the flashlight of your phone to avoid being bitten by one,” added Chiko.

The speakers also debunked the myth that is normally associated with the snakes that they have been sent to you by someone who does not wish you well.

“Traditionally, people believe that when you see a snake, they think it’s an evil eye. That’s not the case. It could be that you have an open source of water and snakes may be thirsty hence they will come to the water, or they have come to hide at your house,” explained Chiko.

Jacinta Chege, the Co-Founder of Reptile Study Group Kenya said that the best thing to do once a snake has bitten you is to be calm and call for assistance.

“Once someone has been bitten by a poisonous snake, the best thing is to be calm and not to panic and call for emergency help. Given that help may take time to get to you, apply basic first aid which is to wash the bite with water only. Keep the person calm and at rest, have the person lie down with the affected limb on the top, immobilize the person where they have been bitten, cover the wound with loose clothing since sterile bandage can be hard to find,” she said.

She however debunked the myth to suck out venom as it puts one at risk of getting poison in their mouth.

“Cutting, sucking or cutting off the blood supply to a bite could damage nerves and blood vessels and lead to infection. A poisonous bite requires anti-venom and emergency treatment. Also, traditional methods will not work when one has been bitten by a snake,” added Chege.

“For a non-venomous snake bite, one should administer local wound care on the snake bite, removing snake teeth if left in the bite site, attending to any trauma on the bite site, and a tetanus booster if needed. Some wounds may become infected and require additional treatment with antibiotics,” she said.

One of the beneficiaries of the talk Kyalo Kinyanzui said that he got to understand the type of snakes that could be found in his area and basic first aid.

“I have enjoyed the session. Together with my son we have learnt how to avoid an attack from a snake and what to do when a snake bites you by administering the first aid then rush the individual to the hospital. I have also debunked the myth of what types of liquids one should use after they have been bitten by a snake to only water,” said Kyalo.

According to WHO, an estimated 5.4 million people are bitten each year with up to 2.7 million envenoming. In Kenya, the overall average frequency of snake bites was 13.8 per 100,000 populations per year.

By Vivian Mbinya

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