The Sunday News
Tinomuda Chakanyuka Sunday News Reporter
SNAKES have never really been a particularly popular member of the animal kingdom to human beings — and for a good reason. Even the Bible confirms this deep seated mutual hatred, or modus vivendi if you fancy, that exists between humans and snakes. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel,” reads the holy book in Genesis 3 verse 15.
Humans dread snakes, and snakes too reciprocate the favour in almost equal proportions. If you are ophidiophobic, which in any case you should be, here are some of the places in Zimbabwe you may need to watch your tracks should you chose to visit.
Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes. Mashonaland West Province is one of those areas in the country that may be be off limits for ophidiophobic people.
The province, perhaps Zimbabwe’s version of the Brazilian Snake Island, recorded the highest number of snake bites last year.
Data from the Ministry of Health and Child Care shows that 5 332 cases of snake bites were recorded in 2015 countrywide, increasing from about 3 195 cases recorded the previous year. At least 41 people died from snake bites nationwide last year, up from 39 deaths in 2014. Of the 5 332 people bitten by snakes last year, 1 080 were from Mashonaland West.
Six people died of snake bites in the province that has perennially recorded the highest number of snake bites and deaths as a result. In 2014 the province witnessed 613 snakebites and 12 deaths.
Mashonaland Central Province is yet another place ophidiophobic people may not be too comfortable visiting. There were a total of 884 snakebite cases recorded in 2015 and six people died as a result 2015 for the province to rank second.
Manicaland which had the third highest number of snakebites last year, 827, had the highest number of deaths, nine.
In Masvingo, 608 snakebite cases and three deaths were recorded, followed by Mashonaland East which had 559 cases but more deaths, five.
Midlands had 561 cases and six deaths. The other 813 cases and nine deaths were spread across the remaining four province with Harare and Bulawayo proving to be the safest places to be for people with snake phobia.
Acting Director for Epidemiology and Disease Control in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Isaac Phiri, however, said majority of snakebites recorded in the country involved non-venomous snakes. He said most of deaths due to snakebites were recorded in remote areas and were a result of delayed access to treatment due to poor transport and communication facilities.
“There is too much human to animal interface in this regard and conflicts do arise. People are settling in remote areas meant for animals. In some villages people’s homes are surrounded by overgrown grasses, all these increase the chances of snake bites. For your information most snake bites are due to non- venomous snakes but when venomous snake bites occur the chance of death is high due mainly to remoteness of the areas where they occur,” said Dr Phiri.
He added that anti-snake venom are propositioned to district, provincial and central hospitals and facilities where conditions of storage are optimum and where they can be administered by trained personnel.
The health ministry has also noted with concern an increase in dog bites in the country, most of which were inflicted by unvaccinated dogs or dogs whose vaccination status was unknown. A total of 26 528 dog bites were recorded in 2015 countrywide up from 18 842 cases that were in 2014, with Manicaland province recording the highest number of cases.
At least two people died last year after being bitten by rabid dogs down from seven deaths recorded the previous year.
Manicaland reported the highest number of cases (4 592) followed by Masvingo (3 707), Mashonaland West (3 752) and Midlands with 3 309. Harare reported 1 786 cases of dog bites and Bulawayo had 296.
Dr Phiri said local authorities, with aid of their respective by-laws, should ensure that owners of dogs to get their animals vaccinated and not let them wonder about in the streets.