Central Visayas health official: Storing of antivenom in barangay ‘not feasible’

Central Visayas health official: Storing of antivenom in barangay ‘not feasible’
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DESPITE a number of reported snake sightings in Cebu, a public health official said storing antivenom in barangay health centers is not feasible due to several factors, one of which is the need for trained medical professionals to administer it to people who have suffered snakebites.

Administering antivenom for snakebites is a specialized procedure that requires the expertise of toxicologists, according to Dr. Shelbay Blanco of the DOH 7-Health Emergency Management Services.

Blanco further said that storing antivenom in barangays is not cost-effective.

“We have scarce and limited resources. There are also health concerns and issues that they have to manage,” he said.

SunStar Cebu asked Blanco about the feasibility of storing antivenom in barangay health centers after an online reader raised the issue.

Blanco and Dr. Beethoven Bongon, a toxicologist at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC), held a press conference in Cebu City on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, to bring awareness about snakebites.

Bongon said in an interview last Jan. 8 that not all people bitten by snakes require antivenom.

Even in venomous bites, Bongon said the eligibility for antivenom treatment is not automatic, as a thorough assessment is necessary.

The antivenom available in Cebu is the polyvalent treatment, which is effective against the venom of three cobra species: king cobra, Philippine cobra and Samar cobra.

Bongon said when a person is bitten by a snake, the recommended course of action is to bring the victim to a local health center. The health expert will then coordinate with the Poison Control Center of VSMMC to assess the situation and determine whether antivenom is truly necessary.

In Cebu, Bongon said 90 percent of snakebites involved non-venomous snakes, thus, the the administration of polyvalent antivenom is rare. Over the past three years, there has not been a need to administer the antivenom.

Last December, Bongon said VSMMC’s stock of 10 polyvalent antivenom vials remained unused, and most of them were nearing expiration. The hospital opted to transport all the vials to Davao Region, where there was a greater need for them.

The hospital currently has no stocks of antivenom vials.

Bongon said last Thursday that new stocks of antivenom vials have not yet arrived at VSMMC. He said they expect the vials to arrive in June this year.

As for the DOH 7, Blanco said they are training emergency personnel in local government units on how to handle snakebite emergencies.


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