Dr Omesh Bharti, 53, a senior field epidemiologist, whose landmark research helped in bringing rabies death incidence to zero in Himachal Pradesh, has made it to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) list of experts on snake bite control in India.
Bharti was awarded Padma Shri in 2019 for making rabid dog bite treatment affordable which was later made free by the state government because of his efforts.
Taking a cue from his new work on snake bites which kills almost 1.50 lakh people across the world and leaves millions disabled, WHO has included Dr Bharti in the list of experts for the preparation of a strategic plan for control and prevention of snakebite envenoming.
In communication with Dr Bharti, WHO's Department for Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases wrote, “your expertise and knowledge are highly valuable to WHO as it operationalizes and rolls out the strategic plan and from time to time, we may request your technical support and assistance with projects”.
Expressing happiness Dr Bharti says “the move is highly satisfying. I am happy that once some ground-level work will get started, it will give hope to the people of India and the world to get cured. Not only it involves lives of the victims but there are financial aspects too”.
Dr Bharti revealed that a Rs 7 crore-project sanctioned by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to generate authentic data on the number of snake bites, types of snakes, and also the efficacy of the anti-snake venom used for the treatment of the snake bite cases will be studied in detail by a team of highly reputed panelists.
“Currently, there is no data available on the exact number of snakebite cases in India or elsewhere in the world. On average, more than 50,000 deaths take place every year but the figure still may not be very authentic. We will undertake the work at all three tiers—local (state), national and international.”
Around 10 crore people in 8 to 10 states will be included in research and analysis.
WHO has conveyed Dr Bharti that his services as a panellist will also be needed in identifying priority actions and interventions within the area of his expertise and reviewing the guideline materials, protocols, training tools and other WHO resources in development, apart from advice on technical matters pertaining to snake bites.
In the past three years, some basic work has already been started in Himachal Pradesh in collaboration with the state forest department’s wildlife wing to know the incidence of snake bites and types of snakes.
Dr Bharti’s first-ever research had helped to bring down the cost of dog bite treatment from Rs 35,000 to Rs 350. WHO had accepted his work, revised the guidelines on rabies prophylaxis, and had recommended following the new protocol for treatment and cure in cases of rabid dog bites.
This had helped in making the treatment affordable because of which the state government was subsequently able to make the vaccine free.
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