U.N. health agency to tackle the 'hidden epidemic' of snakebite deaths

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An eastern massasauga rattlesnake (USFWS)

The World Health Organization is publishing its first global strategy to tackle the problem of snakebites, aiming to halve the number of people killed or disabled by snakes by 2030.

Nearly 3 million people are bitten by potentially poisonous snakes every year, resulting in as many as 138,000 deaths. Last week, Britain's Wellcome Trust announced a $100 million program to address the problem, saying there were new potential drugs that could be tested.

In a statement, Doctors Without Borders said it was "cautiously optimistic" WHO's snakebite strategy could be a "turning point" in addressing snakebites.

The agency called the problem of snakebites "a hidden epidemic" and said most bites are treatable.

WHO's strategy includes plans to increase global access to treatment and anti-venom.