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They moved to Nguni health centre but sadly Stephen passed away. “His body had turned black and was gasping for breath. It was painful to watch him die,” said Stephen’s uncle, James Musya.

The same fate befell Simon Kithonga, 30, a teacher from Mui location. A cobra resting inside a chicken coop bit him twice on the chest as he inspected the house. The lethal venom quickly engulfed his body and in no time he was dead.

Hiding under the bed

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Kitui County, and especially Mwingi is home to venomous snakes, which have for long claimed lives or left victims disabled.

Lucky ones like Kathini Mulyungi, 28, have survived snake bites but lost limbs. Mulyungi was bitten by a rattle snake while asleep after it slithered into her bedroom.

“I felt something cold rub against my body and when I touched it, it struck my right arm,” she says. On lighting a torch she saw the snake hiding under the bed. It was later killed by her relatives.

She was rushed to Mwingi District Hospital and got a referral to Embu Provincial General Hospital (PGH), about 120km away. Mulyungi’s condition deteriorated and she was losing consciousness.