St John Ambulance PNG is looking at focusing its emergency medical technician (EMT) and ambulance operator team training to deal with snakebites.
According to St John Ambulance PNGs’ chief staff officer, Matthew Cannon, the prevalence of snakebite related deaths in PNG is extremely high and warranted greater attention.
“On average, about three people in PNG die of snake bites everyday, which is equivalent to about 1000 a year. In Australia they only get one snake bite related death a year. That is equal to about 1000 times the snakebite related deaths for a population that is about 33 times smaller,” he said.
Statistics have indicated a higher occurrence of poisonous snake bites along the coastal regions of PNG, especially along the Papuan coast.
Gapi Mala, a 56 year-old from Kore village in Rigo was bitten by a death adder a month ago while working in his garden.
According to Mr Mala, he had not felt the bite, but realized something was wrong when he started coughing up blood.
The prompt actions of his family members who took him to Kwikila station hospital and then to Port Moresby general hospital saved his life.
According to Mr Cannon there needs to be awareness of how to deal with snakebites.
“We need to dispel some rumors; firstly, sucking the venom out of the bite wound doesn’t work and in some cases may even make things worse. Cutting the wound also and tying off the limbs to restrict blood flow doesn’t work.”
“The first thing you should always do is call an ambulance. After that, you need to put a compression bandage on the wound and try not to move the patient around as much as possible. This can increase blood flow, causing the venom to spread much faster through the body. If the patient starts experiencing nausea, vomiting or drooping eyelids, put them on their side to clear their airways,” he said.
Mr Cannon said it was important to identify the type of snake that bit you, as some snakes have a dry bite and are not venomous.
“It is helpful if you can take a photo of the snake to help identify it, but about 90 per cent of all snakebite cases we deal with are caused by the Papuan Taipan or Papuan Black. We deal with several snakebite cases in a week in Port Moresby.”