RBC urges Rwandans to be vigilant about scorpions

Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) has alerted residents about scorpions in their houses, compounds, and environments. Internet

Some residents have informed the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) about the presence of scorpions in their homes, compounds, and surroundings. This has prompted RBC to raise awareness among the public about scorpion stings, the spread of their venom in the body, first aid, and preventive measures, despite no recorded cases so far.

According to Dr Edson Rwagasore, the Division Manager of Public Health Surveillance and Emergency Preparedness and Response at RBC, Rwanda is home to several species of scorpions, the most common being hemiscorpius lepturus.

He explained that these scorpions are typically found in dry, rocky areas and can sometimes enter human dwellings in search of shelter.

“Some of the signs of scorpion stings are immediate pain, swelling, redness, and warmth at the site of the sting. In some cases, the symptoms may also include numbness, tingling, muscle twitching, sweating, and difficulty breathing.”

For first aid, Rwagasore recommends remaining calm following a scorpion sting, as panicking may escalate the venom’s spread.

“Clean the area by washing the sting site with soap and water to reduce the risk of infection, and apply a cold compress or ice pack to the stung area to lessen pain and swelling,” he stated.

Rwagasore added that if possible, elevate the affected limb to help ease swelling, or seek medical assistance if the person stung shows severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, muscle twitching, or seizures.

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“It is important to seek medical assistance if the person stung is a child, elderly, or has a known allergy to insect stings,” Rwagasore stated.

He stressed that prevention is better than cure and urges wearing protective clothing, such as gloves and boots when working in areas where scorpions are known to inhabit, checking out clothing, shoes, and bedding before use, particularly in areas where scorpions are prevalent, keeping living areas clean and free from clutter to reducing hiding spots for scorpions and being cautious when reaching into dark or hidden areas where scorpions may be present.

If bitten by a scorpion, one can call 114, a toll-free number for assistance. Callers vary depending on call volume and the nature of the inquiry. The call centre aims to assist callers as quickly as possible, aiming to answer calls within 30 seconds to one minute.

As soon as a suspected case is reported, the call centre ensures timely assistance by reporting the case to the subject matter experts for support and follow-up, Rwagasore highlighted.

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Rwagasore explained that if a scorpion bites one and does not receive immediate medical attention, the symptoms and consequences of the bite can vary depending on the species of scorpion, the amount of venom injected, and the individual’s reaction to the venom.

Without prompt medical treatment, the following potential complications can occur:

The area around the stung spot may continue to swell, become increasingly painful, and show signs of infection. Redness, warmth, and blistering may also develop.

In more severe cases, untreated scorpion stings can lead to systemic symptoms such as muscle spasms, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and neurological symptoms like seizures or paralysis.

Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to scorpion venom, which can manifest as hives, itching, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis.

In rare cases of severe envenomation and delayed treatment, scorpion stings can lead to organ failure, particularly affecting the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Rwagasore noted that although fatalities from scorpion stings are rare, they can occur in cases of extreme envenomation, delayed medical treatment, or in individuals with underlying health conditions or allergies.

He added that in most cases, deaths from scorpion venom are rare. The severity of a scorpion sting and the potential for fatality can depend on several factors, including the species of scorpion, the amount of venom injected, the individual’s age and overall health, and the presence of any allergic reactions.

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“While fatalities from scorpion stings are uncommon, they can occur in certain situations, infants and young children are at higher risk of serious complications from scorpion stings due to their smaller size and developing immune systems. In some regions where highly venomous scorpions are prevalent, children may be more vulnerable to severe reactions,” Rwagasore said.

Individuals with allergies to insect stings or sensitivity to scorpion venom may be at greater risk of experiencing a severe reaction, including anaphylaxis.

People with pre-existing health conditions, such as heart disease or respiratory issues, may be more prone to complications from scorpion envenomation.

Prompt medical care is essential in managing scorpion stings effectively. Delayed or inadequate treatment can increase the risk of complications and potentially lead to fatal outcomes, Rwagasore said.

Scorpion bites are estimated to cause tens of thousands of deaths worldwide each year, primarily in regions with limited access to healthcare and anti-venom treatments.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises scorpion envenomation as a neglected tropical disease, highlighting the need for improved prevention, diagnosis, and treatment strategies.

Regions with high incidences of scorpion stings include South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and parts of Africa.

Africa is a habitat for various scorpion species, including some highly venomous ones that risk human health.

Rwagasore stressed that scorpions are small predatory arachnids that can inflict painful stings when provoked or threatened. They are small animals in the family of arthropods.

They have characteristic tail, segmented, forward curve over the back, and a stinger at the end of the tail. Using their stinger (end of their tail), they inject venom made of toxins that affect the nervous system (neurotoxins).

Scorpions have two front pedipalps (palps) for grasping and eight legs. Their size varies depending on species (generally from 9mm to 21cm including the tail). They may be present in yellow, red, or black colours and almost have the same general appearance.

They are nocturnal (during the day they mostly hide in homes, gaps of stone houses, roofing, bedding, clothing, and footwear, and come out at night for feeding, where they may sting people).

Src: https://www.newtimes.co.rw/article/16173/news/health/rbc-urges-rwandans-to-be-vigilant-about-scorpions


Joan Mbabazi 




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