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Snake bite claims the life of Grade 4 pupil in Tharaka Ward

A snake commonly known as Black Mamba and locally referred to as Kĩrĩa Manyore in Thagicu Tharaka language caused an untimely demise of a Grade Four girl in Kanthũngũ location, Thagicu sub county in Tharaka ward, Kitui county. The family of Mutiria Kamuti said that the snake had invaded the chicken house when the girl’s mother heard the commotion, she went to find out what was attacking the chicken only for the snake to dodge her and made its way to her daughter’s bedroom where it bit the girl causing her death.
Tharaka Ward MCA Muthengi Ndagara (centre in jeans) at the home of the Mutiria Kamuti family who lost their daughter after a snake bite.

The area MCA Hon. Muthengi Ndagara visited the family to condole with them. The MCA said that he spoke to the Kitui  Governor Dr. Julius Malombe on the matter and the leadership made a commitment to stock anti-venom at Ciampiu Health Centre and Mukuyu Dispensary.

Ndagara further requested the County Ministry of Health to be ordered to give back the ambulance which had been taken away from Tharaka Ward "due to political reasons for some time". The Ambulance was returned to Ciampiu Tharaka Health Center on 31st October 2023. The road leading to the affected family is expected to be shoveled tomorrow in preparation for the funeral.
Black Mamba, a snake that killed a Grade Four pupil in Tharaka Ward, Kitui County.

Many angry residents of Thagicu while mourning the little school going girl were advising the family to seek compensation from the government but it was noted that that provision no longer applies to snake bites. The compensation for snake bites was done away with in 2019 following the amendment of The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013 after the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) decried the high rate of compensation claims.

Two years ago, an officer of county government of Kitui was bitten by the same snake which been dropped by an eagle from the sky, entered his car and bit him on the hand. The snake was later snatched by the hungry bird just as the onlookers who had helped to kill it were preparing to set it on fire.

Mr David Musyoka, who was working for Kitui County as a driver then was driving to Mwingi town from Mui coal basin when the snake hit his car's roof, slithered into his passenger’s seat and bit him on the left hand. 

One of the people who were helping him to kill the snake helped to rush him to Mwingi Level IV Hospital which was about 6 kilometers away from the scene.

According to science journals, a bite from a Black Mamba which is called ngúúwa or isembeleli in Kikamba, would be fatal to an adult just within 45 minutes if the victim does not receive the appropriate anti-venom.

Snakes and other reptiles are very common in Mwingi region of Kitui County. Most common venomous snakes in the region include
(1)Boomslang- Dispholidus typus color: Males are green or black speckled while females are brown, grey/olive. In Kikamba they are called Ndalanga and they are commonly found on trees and tree holes.
(2)Puff Adder- Bitis arietans (Kĩmbuva). They are Brown or yellow with V-shaped marks on the skin and Hinged/movable/foldable front fangs. They inhabit ground holes, debris and rock outcrops.

All cobras and mambas have fixed front fang. Common cobras and mambas in Mwingi region include:
(1)Black –necked Spiting cobra Naja nigricollis (Kĩko kiũ).
It is black or dark brown in color.
(2)Red Spitting Cobra- Naja pallida (Kĩko kĩtune/ Kĩko kya ngũkũ)
It appears red or red brown on its skin
(3)Brown Spiting Cobra- Naja ashei (Kĩko kya nzaana) Color: Brown, grey.

Cobras live in ground holes, hollow logs or rock outcrops
(4)Black Mamba- Dendroapsis polylepis (ĩkũũwa/ĩsembeleli)
Colour:Brown , Grey, olive.
Habitat: Ground holes, hollow logs, abandoned log-bee hive, tree hollows or rock outcrops.

Venom types and their symptoms after snake bites 

(a)Haemotoxic:
This is from a boomslang bite:
Affects blood clotting system causing internal bleeding; bleeding from fang area; severe headache; bleeding from cuts, body abrasion and mouth wounds; blood in saliva, urine, faeces and vomit.
(b)Cytotoxic: Gotten from Puff –Adder and Spiting Cobra: Affects cell tissues. Severe pain and swelling(necrosis); blood blisters near bite site; tissue darkens and die then slough.
(c)Neurotoxic:
A bite from Mambas and non-spitting cobra bites contain this. It affects nerves. Local burning pain, drooping eye (ptosis), loss of tongue and jaw control, drooling & slurred speech, blurred vision, dilated pupil and labored breathing.

Some of non-venomous snakes include:
African rock python (itaa, nzese or nzatu),
sand boa(Kiinga),
speckled sand snake (Muusyi/inyuuki),
Link Mark Sand snake (Kyenda ndeto),
Rofous beaked snake (ithangathi/ghithangathi).

Snake-Human Conflict

In many cases snake bites could be avoided if people know venomous snakes in their area and how to avoid them. Snake related deaths could also be avoided or reduced if people could know what to DO and NOT DO in case of a snake bite and how to administer first aid.
An Ambulance given back to the Ciampiu Health Centre in Tharaka Ward, Mwingi North, Kitui County.

Snake bite is a medical emergency; so it is good to think of hospital first and not waste time. Many snakebite victims often die due to shock, reliance on ineffective traditional treatments; inability to arrive at the right health centre in good time; wrong identification of snakes by health care providers and also wrong administration of or lack of first aid.

Avoiding Snake bites 

Most bites occur on the leg, so DO NOT walk bare foot, wear closed shoes and protective clothing.

Apply these measures to avoid snake bites 

(a)Keep homes clear of snake microhabitats e.g. debris piles like stones and wood.

(b)Block open holes and termite mounds in your compound.

(c)Cut trees that touch houses or long and thick grass, bushes, clear rubbish pits as they attract rats and lizards that in turn attract snakes.

(d)Keep poultry /rabbit cages or pens a distance from residential houses, as these attract snakes

(e)Do not set up a pit latrine next to bushes, live or dry fence. Snakes use such sites as refuge or corridors.

(f)Use a torch while out doors at night

Other measures to apply

-Do not gather firewood at night to avoid mistaking a snake for firewood
-Make sure you raise your beds off the floor and doors should be properly fit well
-DO Not put hands or feet into places you cannot see e.g. in piles of logs, rock, holes, tree hollows, anthills, rock, crevices or caves
-Do not drive over a snake as they can get stuck under the vehicle only bite later
-If you encounter the snake in the wild, leave it alone and do not panic.

Also important 

Do not tease, play with or molest a snake. Purported dead snakes fake death
Keeping animals like cats and ducks scares away some species of snakes

First Aid

Fact: 95% of snakebites are not fatal even if left untreated.
Take the patient to the nearest hospital as first as possible
Do Not make cuts or incisions or suck venom
Do not Potassium per Manganite solution, traditional herbs or black snake stones, alcohol, pain killers, electric shock, ice packing or rub/massage
Get the victim to lie down immediately, reassure and get them to relax (talk to them) and try to be calm as well.

For non-spitting cobras or mambas: put on pressure bandage above the bite carefully and apply a splint to immobilize the limb.

Cobra venom in the eyes: Do not rub the eyes. Wash the victim’s eyes gently with large amounts of bland fluid e.g. running water (if possible open eye under water). In absence of water, use beer, soft drinks, cold tea, saliva, milk or urine

For bites by Adders, vipers or spitting cobras Do not apply a bandage as this will cause localized tissue damage.
Do not waste time looking for the culprit snake if it has disappeared to avoid another bite.

STORY By CEPHAS MUTAI

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