Snakebites Cost Sri Lanka More Than US$10 Million Yearly

Snakebites cost Sri Lanka about US$10 million a year—roughly the same amount the country spends on both meningitis and dengue.

AsianScientist (July 20, 2017) – Snakebites are a major public health problem in many rural communities around the world, often requiring medical care and affecting victims’ ability to work. Every year, snakebites cost the Sri Lankan government more than US$10 million, and lead to economic loss of nearly US$4 million for individuals, according to a new study in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The victims of snakebites in poor rural communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America are often young individuals who are earning a wage and have a considerable remaining life expectancy. Moreover, they often work in farming or other labor intensive jobs that they must take time off from in order to recover from a bite.

In the new work, researchers of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the University of Kelaniya used data from a nation-wide household survey conducted in Sri Lanka to estimate the number of snake bites and deaths from snake bites annually. To estimate the costs of the bites, they used additional household questionnaires and information gathered from hospital cost accounting systems.

The study found that 79 percent of victims suffered economic loss after a snake bite, with a median out of pocket cost of US$11.82 and a median loss of income of US$28.57 for those employed and US$33.21 for those self-employed. To put this in context, the mean per capita income per month for people living in the rural areas studied was only US$74 USD.

The total annual economic burden on households was US$3.80. In addition, each year, the bites cost the national healthcare system $10.3 million USD—which is 0.7 percent of the country’s total healthcare costs—and lead to more than 11,000 years’ worth of disability time, the researchers calculated. The numbers were comparable to Sri Lanka’s annual spending on meningitis and dengue.

“It is unlikely that these costs will reduce in the near future as there is no indication that the high incidence of bites is declining,” the researchers say. “Even more concerning is the economic burden that snakebite places on victims and their households… It is highly likely in Sri Lanka that snakebite drives the same catastrophic costs for the poor as many other diseases.”

The article can be found at: Kasturiratne et al. (2017) The Socio-economic Burden of Snakebite in Sri Lanka.


Source: PLOS; Photo: Gihan Jayaweera/Wikimedia Commons.
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