The Situation

Envenoming by snakes is an important public health problem in Africa, where an estimated 500000 cases occur annually (Chippaux, 1998a), resulting in high mortality and morbidity (Chippaux, 1998a; Theakston et al., 2003; Warrell and Arnett, 1976). Currently, however, the availability of antivenoms, the only medically approved therapy for treatment, is very limited in Africa; this is due mainly to the major collapse of commercial antivenom production for this continent (Chippaux, 2002; Laing et al., 2003a; Theakston et al., 2003). This, together with many other issues related to poor distribution of antivenom, lack of an adequate cold chain and inadequate training of staff in local health centres on how to attend snake bites, has created a critical situation in Africa (Chippaux, 2002; Theakston and Warrell, 2000).

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