QUETTA: A seminar on elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus was held in Quetta on Tuesday to spread awareness about the ailment.

The event was jointly organised by the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), United Nations International Children’s Fund (Unicef) and Children Hospital, Quetta.

It was attended by experts from the field, including Dr Sher Satakzai, Dr Ishaq Panezai, Dr Aisha Siddiqa, Dr Shumail Mandokhel and representatives of different non-governmental organisations.

They shared their views and experiences about efforts for elimination of disease and decided to expand the awareness campaign about the disease to schools and colleges.

Tetanus is a non-communicable disease caused by a potent neurotoxin produced by clostridium tetani bacteria whose resistant spores are present in soil and environment.

The causative organism is harboured by humans and animals that excrete bacteria and spores. Once in a suitable anaerobic environment such as a contaminated wound, the bacteria multiply, releasing tetanus toxin, which is responsible for symptoms and outcomes of the disease.

Despite decades of efforts to control and eliminate the disease, it remains a major public health problem, especially in remote areas with poor healthcare delivery and among the poor and illiterate population.

Prevention of MNT requires minimising contamination of wounds with bacterial spores through clean delivery as well as vaccination of women of reproductive age to ensure that they have high enough antibody titers against the toxin to pass to the fetus during pregnancy and prevent the disease in newborn babies.

These measures together with public health messages have, over the years, significantly reduced the burden of neonatal tetanus globally.

In the late 1980s, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that about 787,000 newborn babies died from tetanus with the first 28 days of their live.

The most recent estimate for 2015 has shown a decline in the estimated NT deaths to 34,000 which is a 96 per cent decline. Even though the cases of the disease have dropped significantly, MNT remains a significant public health problem, especially in developing countries.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2019