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Long-term health complications following snake envenoming

Authors Jayawardana S, Arambepola C, Chang T, Gnanathasan A

Received 4 November 2016

Accepted for publication 10 January 2017

Published 26 June 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 279—285


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Subashini Jayawardana,1 Carukshi Arambepola,2 Thashi Chang,3 Ariaranee Gnanathasan3

1Department of Allied Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Colombo, Sri Lanka; 2Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Colombo, Sri Lanka; 3Department of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Background: Snakebite is an important public health problem in tropical regions of the world. Although devastating effects of envenoming such as kidney failure, tissue necrosis, bleeding diathesis, and neurotoxicity are well known in the acute stage following a snakebite, the long-term effects of snake envenoming have not been adequately studied.
Materials and methods: A population-based study was conducted among 8707 residents in a rural district in Sri Lanka to assess the long-term sequelae following snakebite. Health-related complaints that snakebite victims had developed immediately or within 4 weeks of the bite and persisted for more than 3 months, were assessed by interviewer-administered questionnaire and in-depth interviews, and further evaluated by physical examination and relevant investigations.
Results: Of the 816 participants who were identified as ever snakebite victims, 112 (13.7%) presented with at least one snakebite-related long-term health complication. Among them, “migraine-like-syndrome” characterized by headache vertigo, and photosensitivity to sunlight was found in 46 (5.6%); musculoskeletal disorders such as pain, local swelling, muscle weakness, deformities, contractures, and amputations were found in 26 (3.2%); visual impairment in 21 (2.6%); acute kidney injury in 4 (0.5%); skin blisters at the bite site in 5 (0.6%); psychological distress in 2 (0.2%); hemiplegia in 1 (0.1%); right-side facial nerve palsy in 1 (0.1%); paresthesia over bite site in 1 (0.1%); generalized shivering in 1 (0.1%); and chronic nonhealing ulcer in 1 (0.1%). Interestingly, 31 (3.8%) reported nonspecific somatic symptoms such as abdominal colic, chest tightness, wheezing, receding gums, excessive hair loss, and lassitude with body aches following the bite. The average duration of symptoms since snakebite was 12.7 years (SD=11.7).
Conclusion: This study highlights that a significant proportion of snakebite victims suffer disabling chronic health sequelae. There is a need to place systems to address these unmet health needs.

Keywords: snakebite, population-based study, long-term health complications Sri Lanka

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