A report today from the Kenyan news source, The Star, talks of two teen boys from Bungoma County who had died from tetanus after receiving a circumcision. Apparently the circumcisions were performed by a “traditional circumsicor”, which has since gone missing.

Image/Robert Herriman
Image/Robert Herriman

Town elder, Hosea Kisebe says they totally blame the circumscor for not advising the cut boys to go for tetanus injection. He asked the county to give the traditional circumcisor training on hygiene as they perform the cut.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says tetanus is an infection caused by a bacterium called Clostridium tetani. Spores of tetanus bacteria are everywhere in the environment, including soil, dust, and manure. The spores develop into bacteria when they enter the body.

The spores can get into the body through broken skin, usually through injuries from contaminated objects. Certain breaks in the skin are more likely to get infected with tetanus bacteria. Surgical procedures is considered a rare way of contracting tetanus.

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Male circumcision is surgical removal of the foreskin – the retractable fold of tissue that covers the head of the penis.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says in order to reduce risks of tetanus associated with circumcision to as low as possible, including risks related to contamination through poor hygienic conditions and practices, a dual protection approach to risk reduction is advised.

This includes:

  • clean care: enhanced attention to standard protocols for skin preparation and cleanliness (both at the facility and by individuals who undergo the circumcision procedure).
  • tetanus toxoid containing vaccine (TTCV): ensuring that all patients are adequately protected against tetanus by vaccination before circumcision.

Tetanus is often called “lockjaw” because one of the most common signs of this infection is tightening of the jaw muscles. Tetanus infection can lead to serious health problems, including being unable to open the mouth and having trouble swallowing and breathing.