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Snake-bite mortality among a rural population in Kenya was estimated to be 6.7/100,000 people each year, representing 0.7% of all deaths. A community-based retrospective survey of 4712 households provided estimates of the incidence of snake bite in this population. Although 151/100,000 people are bitten each year, only 19% of these are bitten by potentially venomous snakes. When those who had been bitten were shown photographs of a range of locally prevalent snakes, most indicated that both venomous and non-venomous snakes were capable of causing death. Most (68%) of bite cases sought treatment from a traditional healer who invariably used local herbal preparations applied to the bite site and/or in a ring around the bitten limb. Local skin incisions were also commonly practised. The use of traditional medicine for snake bite is a feature of most areas of the developing world where venomous snakes are prevalent. Improvements in early referral and appropriate care will only occur when traditional healers are integrated into primary health care and hospital-based health systems.

Original publication




Journal article


Ann Trop Med Parasitol

Publication Date





665 - 671


Adolescent, Adult, Age Distribution, Aged, Child, Child, Preschool, Cross-Sectional Studies, Female, Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice, Humans, Incidence, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Kenya, Male, Medicine, Traditional, Middle Aged, Morbidity, Patient Acceptance of Health Care, Prevalence, Retrospective Studies, Rural Population, Sex Distribution, Snake Bites