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Death in the long grass: Myanmar's snake bite menace

Published on Jun 11, 2014 3:35 PM

YANGON (AFP) - Swaying with the hypnotic rhythm of the king cobra rearing up in front of him, Myanmar snake charmer Sein Tin feels protected from the venomous kiss of his dancing partner by an intricate array of "magical" tattoos.

But in a land slithering with deadly serpents, many of his countrymen are not so lucky.

Myanmar may be best known for the giant constrictor, the Burmese python, but the South-east Asian nation has a host of other snakes whose names would strike even more fear into the hearts of ophidiophobics. Russell's viper, banded krait and spitting cobra are among the 150 species of snakes in the former junta-ruled nation, 40 of them venomous.

Their abundance, combined with a substantial proportion of people working in the countryside and a chronically underfunded health system, means Myanmar has a snake bite mortality rate around twice as high as the world average.

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