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Jakarta Post

Habitat for venomous vipers, Indonesia poorly prepared for snake bites

  • Theresia Sufa

    The Jakarta Post

Bogor   /   Fri, March 1, 2019   /   07:30 pm
Habitat for venomous vipers, Indonesia poorly prepared for snake bites Snake bites are among 10 neglected illnesses in Indonesia. (Shutterstock/Taufik Ar Rifai)

There are 135,000 snake bite cases in Indonesia every year, and they can be a time bomb as victims often opt for treatment by shamans, an expert has said.

“Snake bites are among 10 neglected illnesses in Indonesia,” Tri Maharani, a doctor specializing in snake bites, said during a snake bite treatment training session at the Forest Development and Research Center in Gunung Batu, Bogor, West Java, on Thursday.

According to Tri, 27 snake bites were reported in January and February 2019 alone.

“I receive the reports from regional health facilities and hospitals, but maybe the number of people who died from snake bites in the forest, streets or rice fields is unknown. Maybe the number is higher than this,” Tri said.

Tri added that many people often opted to see shamans to treat snake bites and that only a few actually went to the hospital to receive treatment.

Indonesia is home to more than 70 types of poisonous snakes. Snakes on the western side of Indonesia are similar to those found in other Asian countries, while snakes on the eastern side of the archipelago have similar characteristics to those found in Australia.

However, she said, Indonesia only had one type of antivenom serum that could be used to treat the bites of three poisonous snakes, namely the king cobra, Malayan pit viper and blue krait

Antivenom for eastern Indonesia only can be purchased from Australia for Rp 80 million (US$5,663) per bulb. 

“Meanwhile, I get donations from Myanmar for antivenom [distributed in] western Indonesia,” Tri said. 

Tri says all countries should have a subsidized antivenom producer. 

Although Indonesia also has an antivenom factory, it does not produce enough to meet demand, while distribution is not sufficient. “Indonesia’s antivenom factory only produces 40,000 vials each year and distributes the medicine to several hospitals. Each hospital only can have five to 16 vials, as the price for each vial is quite high, at Rp 700,000 to Rp 800,000,” she said.

“Production and types of antivenom should be increased considering the many types of venomous snakes in Indonesia.”