For most people in the United States, venomous snakes rank pretty low on the list of things to worry about on a daily basis. But for millions of people around the world, especially those who live in tropical regions and in communities that are a long way away from cities, dying or becoming permanently disabled as a result of a venomous snake bite is a disturbingly real possibility.

Nearly 93 million people worldwide are at high risk of dying from snake envenomation, according to a new study by an international team of tropical disease and public health experts. It’s an issue one of the study’s authors tells Inverse is “a global problem.” The finding, presented in a paper published Thursday in the medical journal The Lancet, is based on global data that analyze how many people live near highly venomous snake habitats, how close these people live to adequate medical care, and whether there’s even an appropriate antivenom for the snakes that live near them.

Based on the overlap of these three factors, the data revealed that Southeast Asia, the Congo Basin in Africa, and the Amazon Basin in South America are the regions in which people are at the highest risk. To calculate the hazard of snake bites, the researchers used a model that’s typically used to examine neglected tropical diseases, which reflects a shift in the public health community’s thinking about venomous snakes.

In June 2017, out of concern for the risk posed to the world’s most vulnerable communities, the World Health Organization classified snakebite envenomation as a Neglected Tropical Disease. This category includes the mammal-borne rabies virus and the insect-borne Chagas disease, as well as rarer diseases like leprosy.

This classification opened the door for governments and non-governmental organizations to direct money toward research and treatment efforts to help people who live with a higher risk of snakebites. It also motivated the study’s authors to highlight the current state of the global burden imposed by venomous snakebites. Read more from…

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