27 August, 2008

Scorpions as a health problem

Scorpions are infamous because of their venomous sting, but as with many other venomous animals, their reputation is exaggerated. Chippaux & Goyffon has recently presented an analysis of the epidemiology of scorpionism based on published facts, and they list species that are shown in the literature to be dangerous to man.

Here is the abstract of the paper:

The scorpionism is an actual public health problem in several parts of the world because, either incidence, or severity of envenomations is high and managed with difficulty by health services, or for these two reasons at the same time. The treatment of scorpion envenomation is complex and controversial, in particular regarding the utility of the antivenoms and symptomatic treatments that must be associated. The authors reviewed the literature of last 30 years to discuss the epidemiologic importance of the scorpionism and to point out the principal therapeutic or preventive measures. According to the most recent studies, seven areas were identified as at risk: north-Saharan Africa, Sahelian Africa, South Africa, Near and Middle-East, South India, Mexico and South Latin America, east of the Andes. These involve 2.3 billion at risk population. The annual number of scorpion stings exceeds 1.2 million leading to more than 3250 deaths (0.27%). Although adults are more often concerned, children experience more severe envenomations and among them, mortality is higher. Improvement of therapeutic management would reduce the lethality very significantly.

Even though this is a thorough review of the medical literature, I do not think that this is a final answer to the questions about which scorpions are really dangerous.

Chippaux JP, Goyffon M. Epidemiology of scorpionism: A global appraisal. Acta Trop. 2008;107(2):71-9.[Subscription required for fulltext]

No comments: