British man blinded and paralysed after snakebite while battling suspected Covid in India

A 49-year-old British man in India is experiencing paralysis and blindness after being bitten by a king cobra, which can be fatal in some cases, while he was also battling a suspected coronavirus infection.  

Charity worker Ian Jones was admitted to a hospital in the city of Jodhpur, Rajasthan, on 9 November where it was assumed he was infected with Covid-19, after his business partner in India had already tested positive.

Authorities at the Medipulse hospital, where he underwent treatment, said that by 11 November it was confirmed that he was not actually suffering from Covid symptoms but rather from the aftereffects of a snake bite. He received treatment for the bite following a negative coronavirus test, and was discharged from hospital on 16 November.  

“Since then, he has been recuperating at our factory-cum-accommodation in Jodhpur itself. Right now, neither can he see nor can he walk. He was bitten by a snake on his hand while he was resting,” Mr Jones’s business partner, Aakash Saini, told The Independent.

Mr Jones may not have tested positive for the novel coronavirus this time around, but it is believed he was infected back in March. The charity worker from the Isle of Wight has been in India since January 2020 and was due to fly back to the UK in June, a flight which got postponed because of a national lockdown. 

Mr Saini said Mr Jones, who regularly travels to India for work, also suffered from dengue in 2017, chikungunya in 2018 and malaria in 2019. When he contracted a suspected Covid-19 infection in 2020 it was a particular concern because he is also a cancer survivor, and has reduced levels of immunity as a result.

Mr Jones works for the charity Sabirian, a social enterprise that aims to help people work their way out of poverty, supporting around 70 Indian craftspeople to help them sell their crafts and furniture in the UK in a sustainable and ethical way.  

His family described him as a “fighter” and told the Press Association they hope that the blindness and paralysis were only temporary.  

Dr Abhisek Tater from the Medipulse hospital, confirmed that Mr Jones was discharged four days ago and that his condition was getting better. “All specialists including neuro and chest were consulted and he was given proper treatment. When he left he had blurriness in his vision but was improving. He didn’t have paralysis,” Dr Tater told The Independent.

Mr Jones’s son, Seb, told PA that despite suffering so many illnesses over the years including dengue and malaria, his father has “remained resolute in his determination” to stay in India and continue working to “help the people that needed his support”.

Seb Jones said although his father has “paralysis in his legs and blindness”, both of which the family was hoping were “temporary”, they knew that he was “going to need to remain in the hospital out there for some time to come.”

Community Action Isle of Wight, which owns Sabirian, has set up a charity page to raise funds to cover Mr Jones’s medical costs. 

“Ian has put so much on the line to continue to support the people out in India that he works with, living in difficult conditions and being away from his own family and friends… He is now facing a long road to recovery and we are appealing for any fundraising support people can give to help us meet his medical costs until he can eventually be brought home,” said Mike Bulpitt of  Community Action Isle of Wight.  

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