Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 1 March 2019 (PAHO)- Miguel Rodrigo Zúniga’s life was hanging in the balance. The 16-year old teenager from Trojes, in the Honduran province of Danlí, was bitten by a black widow. His life was saved, however, thanks to several organizations that worked to deliver the antidote from Nicaragua in a matter of hours..
“PAHO responded quickly to the emergency, coordinating with its offices in Honduras, Nicaragua and its headquarters in Washington DC, and contacted countries in order to obtain the antidote for Miguel.”
It all began when Miguel was admitted to the Gabriela Alvarado Regional Hospital on Friday 22 February, with severe pain and hypertension. Health professionals then referred him to the Women and Children’s hospital in Tegucigalpa, 100 kilometers away, where he was diagnosed with severe poisoning from a black widow spider bite.
The hospital pharmacy, however, did not stock the necessary treatment, nor did any other pharmacy or health center in the country. At 8 o’clock in the morning on February 23, Professionals notified the National Commission for Environmentally sound Management of Chemical Products (CNG), the Honduras Toxicological Information Center (CENTOX), and the Central America Network of Toxicological Information (REDCIATOX), which requested support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).
“PAHO responded quickly to the emergency, coordinating with its offices in Honduras, Nicaragua and its headquarters in Washington DC, and contacted countries in order to obtain the antidote for Miguel,” said Piedad Huerta, the PAHO/WHO Representative in Honduras. The Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (Minsa) was the first to offer the antidote.
Following extensive coordination between Honduras and Nicaragua, at 1.50pm, Nicaraguan authorities authorized the donation of the antidote, which was transferred by the PAHO/WHO office in Nicaragua to the Ministry of Health’s resource center, and then an awaiting ambulance at the Guasaule border.
After passing through customs and driving for almost 200 kilometers, paramedics from the Honduras 911 National Emergency Services delivered the drug to be administered to Miguel that day.
The antidote was then immediately administered at 9.50pm, saving Miguel’s life “I was hospitalized for a black widow spider bite and am so grateful that my life was saved,” he said. His mother, Aracely, also expressed her gratitude “to the Pan American Health Organization, for saving my son’s life.”
This situation, as well as similar situations that have occurred in the past, highlight the need to facilitate the timely availability of medicines and antidotes for treating this type of emergency. Due to the low demand and limited commercial interest in these medicines, sub-regional purchasing is a viable alternative. In order to support this, online information should be made available regarding the location of these medicines, and the prior organization of transportation and customs clearance should take place to accelerate transportation during an emergency. The role of committed, professional networks is also vital for the management of these emergencies.
PAHO works with countries of the Americas to make antidotes and other medicines that are difficult to acquire, available in a timely manner and close to at-risk populations. It also cooperates in the preparation of action plans for emergency situations.