MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018

More than 30 countries make major strides to eliminate deadly tetanus

The U.N. and its partners announced on Wednesday that tetanus, a deadly disease that affects mothers and their newborns, was eliminated in more than 30 countries that previously dealt with high tetanus rates.

Since 1999, multiple U.N. agencies participated in the Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination Initiative to vaccinate more than 118 million women of child-bearing age against tetanus in 52 countries. The tetanus vaccine was often included as part of other life-saving interventions for children, including measles immunizations, vitamin A supplements, information on umbilical cord care and de-worming tablets.

Tetanus is transmitted when children are born in unhygienic conditions and non-sterile materials are used to cut the umbilical cord or are applied to the umbilical bump, which can also put the mother at risk. Even though tetanus is easily preventable with a vaccine administered to the mother, the disease kills one newborn baby every nine minutes in the world's most disadvantaged communities.

Three protective doses, which cost approximately $2, protect a mother and her future newborns for five years.

The initiative said that while half of its 59 priority countries have made progress, there are 28 others that have yet to reach the elimination goal. Barriers to eliminating tetanus include lack of access to communities because of insecurity, competing priorities, inadequate funding and cultural barriers.

The countries that eliminated neonatal and maternal tetanus are Zambia, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, Uganda, Togo, Turkey, Timor Leste, Tanzania, South Africa, Senegal, Rwanda, Nepal, Namibia, Myanmar, Mozambique, Malawi, Liberia, Iraq, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Eritrea, Egypt, Cote d'Ivoire, Congo, Comoros, China, Cameroon, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Benin and Bangladesh.

In 1999, it was estimated that more than 200,000 newborn deaths were caused by tetanus annually. By 2010, the number decreased to approximately 58,000.