The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling features the well-known story ofRikki-Tikki-Tavi, where a krait threatens a boy but is defeated by a mongoose. The story takes place in India, where kraits (Bungarus spp.) are common.
Kraits are called different names in different regions due to linguistic differences.Some of the names are:
The common krait, Bungarus caeruleus is a relatively small (3 foot) venomous snake and one of the most venomous snakes in India. Kraits have colors ranging from black to grey with white stripes that are more prominent on the lower part of the body.
Kraits can be found in a number of habitats. As their preferred food source is rodents, they tend to occupy places where rodents are found, such as rat holes, old houses, and semi-aquatic environments. Kraits are nocturnal creatures; therefore the risk of being bitten by a krait is highly increased at night.
Krait envenomation is quite common in India, Taiwan, Vietnam, and other Asian countries. In a study by Ha (2009)1, 60 krait envenomations were studied. The results showed that the mortality rate was 7% out of all those bitten, with a mean age of the victims being 33 and 71% of the victims being males. The average duration of time that passed between the bite and the first sign of symptoms ranged from 30 minutes to 24 hours.
Deaths from the krait are usually from respiratory failure. In Sri Lanka, deaths from krait bites are common.
The most common symptoms were drooping of the eyelids and dilation of the pupils. More severe symptoms included: limb paralysis and paralysis of respiratory muscles (ibid). Of the 60 people, 52 needed mechanical ventilation for eight days as a consequence of the krait’s venom.
1 Ha, T.H., Hojer, J., Nguyen. T.D. Clinical Features of 60 Consecutive ICU-treated Patients Envenomed By Bungarus Multicinctus. Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health 40(3) pp. 518-524 (2009).