Indian Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi announced today at the inauguration of the two-day “Call to Action Summit-2015-ending preventable child and maternal deaths” that the country has eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus.
During his address, the PM referenced several achievements, none as impressive as the victory over polio 3 1/2 years ago.
He then went on to say, “India has eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus”.
According to the WHO, tetanus is acquired through exposure to the spores of the bacterium Clostridium tetani which are universally present in the soil. The disease is caused by the action of a potent neurotoxin produced during the growth of the bacteria in dead tissues, e.g. in dirty wounds or in the umbilicus following non-sterile delivery.
People of all ages can get tetanus. But the disease is particularly common and serious in newborn babies. This is called neonatal tetanus. Most infants who get the disease die. Neonatal tetanus is particularly common in rural areas where most deliveries are at home without adequate sterile procedures.
In 1988, the WHO estimated that 787,000 newborns died of neonatal tetanus. The most recent estimates from 2008 show that number down to 59,000, a 92% reduction from the situation in the late 1980s.
The WHO considers neonatal tetanus to have been eliminated when the incidence is less than one case per 1000 live births in every district in a country. Maternal tetanus is considered to be eliminated when neonatal tetanus has been eliminated.
Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today
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