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the race to find a universal antivenom

In Nigeria's Snake Belt, the new initiative is welcomed but will not come as something soon enough for many.

May and June is the peak season for the clinic, when the agricultural season begins to cause workers to be bitten like the clear areas of grassland and bush. Sometimes a dozen patients come every day, some even across the border in neighboring Cameroon, almost 200 miles away.

Those who reach the clinic are treated with basic anti-venom, which is offered for free and usually see recovery within a few days. Yet many victims choose to stay at home and put their faith in traditional solutions such as rubbing the wound with bark or slipping it openly in a hopeless bid to "bleed out" the poison.

Such a case is Emmanuel Samuel, 1

2, who was bitten at the foot of a carpet whipping four nights ago while playing. The creature clung to its feet with its prisoners, which meant that it probably gave a full dose of poison, but in the first 12 hours his grandmother treated him by feeding him garlic paste.

"Fortunately, an employee of our staff happens to live in his village, and when they found out they told him to come here right away," said Dr. Muhammad as he examines Emmanuel's legs. Although the swelling has fallen, it is covered with blisters and lesions, while the remaining skin is shiny and delicate as a film.

"When he came here, he could hardly speak," adds Dr. Muhammad. "If he had stayed home, he would have died."

In 2004, the Kaltungo clinic treated about 4,400 patients, of which about one percent were killed, says Professor Abdulrazaq Habib, another clinician's doctor. [19659002] Sometimes there are also logistical problems with the supply of antivenom. Dr. Muhummad said that a deficiency over two weeks last autumn allowed several patients to turn away, some of which he later assumed died.

The local population can also do more training on the risks of using traditional medicine: "We tell them that herbal remedies are worthless, but people do not always listen," he says.

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