Nine patients are at deadly risk due to the shortage of snake anti-venom in Venezuela

The snakebites kill 60 Venezuelans every year, and there is no anti-venom. The situation is turning into a major health crisis as a young girl died from a Mapanare bite, and nine patients are risking death due to lack of the serum in Portuguesa state lone.

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Every year, some 60 people die in Venezuela for poisoning snakebites. Photo by IO Foundation.

By Bianile Rivas.

At least nine patients are at the hospital in Guanare, Portuguesa state, for snake bites and are in deadly risk if they do not receive anti-venom serum soon enough.

No institutions, public or private, has the serum in stock in the central Venezuelan state, relatives of the victims say. As the rainy season began in May in most of Venezuela, venomous snakes such as the Mapanare have to ditch their lairs and seek dry ground. That is when the attacks take place, experts say, which in Venezuela mean some 60 deaths a year, according to IO Foundation, most of them in the Llanos (plains) and Andean states.

Sources within the Directorate of the Ministry of Health confirmed the death of a 12-year-old girl at the hospital in Guanare, where she arrived on Tuesday, July 21, affected by a bite from a Mapanare snake. She died two days later. The antidote was not available at the hospital or in any public-safety agency, the informants said.

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State resident, Andrea Arias Moro, denounce in Facebook what she deemed to be the young girl’s “slow and painful death,” due to the lack of the antidote. Relatives of the young victim reported needing two kits, which got offered to them at $160 each.

“When a donor finally appeared, the poison had advanced too far in the child body: she lost a lot of blood,” Arias Moro wrote on her Facebook page.

One of the patients still awaiting for the serum is in the municipality of Guanarito. Jose Gregorio Edy Mejias, a 28-year-old patient, is hospitalized since Thursday, July 30, also from a Mapanare bite to his left foot.

His relatives are begging for the serum to him, demanding that the Health Ministry provide the antidote to the health centers in the Llanos region, where they have not received the treatment for more than a year.

No production

Sources told El Pitazo that there were nine Mapanare snakebite patients in the health centers of the municipalities of Guanare, Guanarito, Araure, and Turen. Some relatives of the patients had managed to locate doses of serum in Aragua and Apure states, but claim that health director in Portuguesa, Oswaldo Yepez, refuses to arrange for transportation.

Experts insist that in Venezuela, there is no right distribution of the serum. It is the Ministry of Health that is in charge of this. They point out that “it would be fundamental that the serum is available at least in the states with the biggest rate of bites, Barinas and Zulia.”

60 deaths per year

According to data from the IO Foundation, published on June 10, some 60 people die each year in Venezuela from snakebites. The risk of suffering this type of accident increases when the rainy season begins.

The organization warns on its website that there is a striking lack of investment and distribution for snakebites anti-venom in the country. Besides, 90% of snake victims are of limited resources, the study says. More than 96% of Venezuelans are poor, according to the ENCOVI 2019 national living conditions poll.

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