A four-year-old Vietnamese girl has passed away after she was bitten by a venomous snake but no venom antiserum against the species was available for use to save her then, local authorities said.
The little girl, S.T.N.N., died on Sunday, a week after being bitten by a Malayan krait snake, one of the venomous snake species, while sleeping at home in Phuoc Tan Commune, Son Hoa District, Phu Yen Province, located in the south-central region.
N.'s mother found her daughter being bitten by the snake at 0:00 on May 16 and took the girl to the district health center immediately, the commune authorities said.
Due to her critical condition, the girl was transferred to the Phu Yen Obstetrics and Pediatrics Hospital at 2:30 am the same day in a state of lethargy and difficulty breathing.
Doctors later performed endotracheal intubation on the girl as she showed signs of apnea, said Dr. Phan Van Minh, the hospital director.
They promptly transferred her to the provincial General Hospital because they had no venom antiserum against the snake species.
As the general hospital stored no such antivenom either, the girl was sent back to the Phu Yen Obstetrics and Pediatrics Hospital at noon the same day.
“We contacted Children’s Hospital 1 and Children’s Hospital 2 in Ho Chi Minh City for transferring the girl to either of them, but they said that they had no specific venom antiserum for the snake species,” Dr. Minh elaborated.
Doctors therefore continued to treat N. according to the Ministry of Health’s therapeutic regimen for cases in which no snake venom antiserum is available for use, Dr. Minh added.
After six days of treatment, N.’s condition got worse on the evening of May 21, with liver and kidney failure and high fever.
As doctors gave her a very poor prognosis, her relatives asked for permission to take her home, and she succumbed at noon the next day.
A leading official at the Ho Chi Minh City Children’s Hospital said that the infirmary currently lacks venom antiserums for both Malayan krait and Indochinese spitting cobra snakes.
These two serums are rarely used so they are hardly imported by businesses despite cheap prices, the official said.
Every year, the hospital treats only one patient bitten by either of the snakes and there have been years seeing no cases, the official said, adding that when it is lacking in any venom antiserum, it will borrow from Children’s Hospitals 1 and 2.
Dr. Dinh Tan Phuong, head of the emergency department of Children's Hospital 1, said that the hospital currently does not have venom antiserums for both Malayan krait and Banded krait snakes, while those for other snake species are available.
Dr. Le Quoc Hung, head of the tropical disease department at Ho Chi Minh City-based Cho Ray Hospital, also said that the hospital has no longer stocked venom antiserums against Malayan krait snakes for a year now.
This antivenom is usually purchased from Thailand and it has yet to be imported into Vietnam over the past time, for the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted antiserum production, Dr. Hung explained.