Around the world,
an estimated 1 million people are bitten by snakes every year. However,
few of the snakes responsible are highly dangerous and, indeed, research
has shown that in as many as 50% of bites no venom is injected. Consequently,
in many countries there is more chance of being killed by a bolt of lightning
than there is of being killed by a snake.
More people die from snakebite in India than in any other country in the world, with the total death toll estimated to average 10 - 12,000 annually. This is partly due to a high incidence of venomous snakes, but also because in many areas medical care is not always readily available and, consequently, more bites prove fatal; death can often be prevented by prompt medical treatment and, indeed, most deaths from snakebite occur well away from hospitals and other treatment centers. In some areas, local habits and conditions also encourage a higher incidence of snakebite; in Bombay, for example, poor hygiene attracts large numbers of rats and other rodents which, in turn, attract large numbers of cobras (family Elapidae).
More people die of snakebite in Sri Lanka than in any other comparable area. An average of 800 people are killed by snakes every year on the 656,120Km² (25,332miles²) island - equivalant to one person every 82Km² (32 miles²) annually. Over 95% of the fatalities are caused by the common krait (Bungarus caeruleus), the Sri Lankan cobra (Naja n. naja) and Russel's pit viper (Vipera russelli pulchella).
The approximate number
of deaths by snakebite, and the species most likely to have been responsible,
according to major regions of the world are as follows:
Europe (10 - 15): sand viper (Vipera ammodytes).
Australia (2 - 4): tiger snake (Notechis scutatus) and eastern brown snake (Pseudonaja textilis).
Africa (1,000): puff adder (Bitis arientans), saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus) and Egyptian cobra (Naja haje).
South America (2,000): pit viper (Bothrops atrox), other Bothrops species, the rattlesnake Crotalus durissus and coral snakes of the genus Micrurus.
India (10 - 12,000): Indian cobra (Naja naja), Russel's viper (Vipera russelli) and the saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus).