Sri Lanka spends over US$10 mn every year on snakebites

July 11, 2017

Considered a major public health issue in many rural communities all over the world, snakebites often affect the victims’ ability to work and require medical care. In Sri Lanka, the government spends more than US$10 million annually, leading to economic loss of nearly US$4 million for individuals, according to a new study.

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, David Lalloo, of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK, and colleagues from the University of Kelaniya used data from a nation-wide household survey conducted in Sri Lanka in 2013 and 2013 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 has found that 79% of victims suffered economic loss after a snakebite, 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. The total annual economic burden on households was US$3.8.

In addition, each year, the bites cost the national healthcare system US$10.3 million — which is 0.7% 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.

According to the researchers, the possibility of the costs going down in the future is unlikely as there is no evidence that the high number of snakebite incidents is decreasing. “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,” they added.

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