Snakes washed by flood into Kanke, Kanam and other communities in Plateau State have bitten more than 50 people in the last two weeks.
The representative of the area at the House of Representatives, Timothy Golu, confirmed the development in Jos, the state capital, after visiting the victims.
Golu said that some had died while others in critical conditions were on admission in various hospitals and traditional snake treating homes.
He said that 13 victims were at Zamko clinic in Langtang, 20 in traditional healers’ treatment homes, seven in herbalists’ centres, while some visit the centres for daily treatment owing to lack of bed space.
“Some have even been treated and discharged, but a woman at my place, who has been treated and discharged, still has pus gushing from the bitten spot and we have advised her to return to the hospital for fresh checks.
“We fear that something worse may result from the wound if not properly treated because she is already limping,” he said.
Describing the situation as “very scary and pathetic”, Golu said that the snakes, who move openly and always in pairs, were washed into the communities by flood.
“As the flood pushed them from the over flown tributaries of Rivers Benue and Niger, some snakes climbed trees, others entered holes while some just held unto any available straw.
“All of them later descended into residences and farms where they have been wreaking havoc.”
He said that the commonest species were the black mamba, carpet viper and cobra, and declared that most victims usually depend on luck to survive.
Golu urged the Federal and Plateau Governments to treat the snake invasion as “a national medical emergency concern”, and give it the same response given to HIV/AIDS and the Ebola virus.
“Government must come in with full force and ensure that the anti-snake venom is provided to the people free of charge because it is too expensive for the rural poor.
“Other world health bodies like WHO and UNICEF should also step in because it is a serious situation that requires all hands on deck.”
The law maker also called on the federal and state governments to fumigate the homes, farmlands and the general environment of the communities to reduce the number of snakes, especially since they appeared to be reproducing.
He said that the fumigation would also reduce the number of crocodiles washed into the communities, pointing out that the weather of the area was naturally attractive to such reptiles.
Golu said that he had advised the people to use hand gloves and rain boots while on their farms to minimise the effect of the snake attacks.
“But even such precautions can only minimise the damage because some of the snakes just fly into their victims and knock them off before biting them.
“Others just splash their poisonous saliva into the faces of their victims and that is equally dangerous,” he said.
He said that the situation had led to other environmental concerns with waterborne diseases like typhoid and gastro enteritis becoming common, urging extra caution among the people.
Golu also suggested that traditional snake charmers should be supported to help the people.
“Some charmers have devices through which they attract the snakes and get them killed; such initiatives will reduce their number and need to be encouraged,” he said.
He said that the urban centres were not spared as a huge black mamba was killed in the Jos residence of a former member of the House of Representatives last week.