Effect of distance and delay in access to care on outcome of snakebite in rural north-eastern Nigeria

Rural Remote Health. 2015;15(4):3496. Epub 2015 Nov 22.


Introduction: Snakebite envenoming is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in rural areas of the tropics. Timely administration of effective antivenom remains the mainstay of management.

Methods: The study was a quantitative descriptive study aimed at exploring the causes and effects of delay, distance and time taken to access care on snakebite outcomes in Nigeria. All prospective snakebite victims reporting to Kaltungo General Hospital were enrolled. Data on demography, date and time bitten, date and time admitted, site of bite, circumstances of snakebite, responsible snake, clinical features, 20-minute whole-blood clotting test, antivenom administered and outcome were recorded. Delay arising from use of traditional first aid (TFA), time elapsed from snakebite to presentation and the shortest distance from bite location to the hospital was calculated or obtained using a global positioning system.

Results: The association between delay before hospital presentation and poor outcome was not statistically significant, even though there was a 2% higher likelihood of poor outcome among those with a 1-hour delay compared to those without delay (odds ratio 1.02, 95% confidence interval 1.00-1.03). There was no difference in distance from bite location to hospital between those with a poor outcome (74) compared to those with a good outcome (325). Those with a poor outcome had more severe envenomation requiring more antivenoms and longer hospital stays. Given poor access to antivenom therapy at distant locations ≥100 km, victims were more likely to use TFA such as black 'snake' stone, with consequent prolonged delays. Antivenoms should be more readily available at distant places.

Conclusions: Community education on avoiding potentially harmful TFA and prompt access to care is recommended. There is a need to provide snakebite care to multiple peripheral, relatively more rural inaccessible areas.

Keywords: Africa; Evidence-based Care; Medical; Occupational Health; Public Health; Toxicology; Tropical Health.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antivenins / administration & dosage*
  • Cause of Death*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • First Aid / methods*
  • Hospitals, General
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Medicine, Traditional / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nigeria
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Rural Population
  • Snake Bites / diagnosis
  • Snake Bites / mortality*
  • Snake Bites / therapy*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Survival Rate
  • Time-to-Treatment
  • Young Adult


  • Antivenins