Almost 200 patients, most of whom were children, have been treated over a four-month period for snake bites in the deep rural areas of KZN, reports the Zululand Observer.
A three-year-old girl, who was bitten at least three times on her face, as well as a three-month-old baby have been among the patients Mark Wagener, who is based at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, has treated.
“The majority of snake bites are from the Mozambique spitting cobra – the mfezi,” he said.
Wagener, who recently completed a study of the cases, took up the research after noticing many children were being admitted for snake bites during his days as an intern at Ngwelezana Hospital.
The results showed 93% of snakes that had struck his patients had been identified as Mozambique spitting cobras.
“Individual descriptions can be unrealistic, but the bites were very typical.”
Unlike mambas, Cape cobras and forest cobras, Mozambique spitting cobras are cytotoxic. When they bite and inject venom, they damage body cells, first causing swelling and later tissue destruction.
More than half the patients were under 10-years-old and 15% were between the ages of 10 and 15.
Untreated bites could cause severe stiffness in the area of the bite, especially among children. This could cause limbs to not function and prevent victims from performing jobs.
Most incidents occurred in the uMkhanyakude District and Zululand region.
Wagener speculated that children were vulnerable in deep rural homes because they probably slept on the floor and moved a lot as they slept.
– Caxton News Service