After polio, India set to win battle against tetanus at childbirth
India has eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus — an infection that at its peak killed an estimated 2 lakh adults and children every year — and is expecting an official certification from WHO within two months. (Photo: Reuters)
A year after obtaining WHO certification for the elimination of polio, India is on the verge of crossing another milestone in public health.
It has eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus — an infection that at its peak killed an estimated 2 lakh adults and children every year — and is expecting an official certification from WHO within two months, Health Ministry sources told The Sunday Express.
Confirmation of the breakthrough came after a joint team of WHO and UNICEF recently conducted field visits in Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland and Meghalaya, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, which were the last four hotspots where incidence of the infection had remained above acceptable levels, sources said.
“The latest inspections went well and it’s only a matter of time before the formal certification comes, like it happened in the case of polio,” said a senior Health Ministry official.
Dr Vinod Paul, professor of neonatology in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), outlined three major reasons why India managed to tame an infection that was “once responsible for some 15 per cent of the total number of neonatal deaths in the country”.
“The immunisation coverage of expecting mothers has become very good, though not 100 per cent yet. The number of institutional deliveries have gone up. Even for those happening outside institutions, we have delivery kits that minimise chances of infection. Safe umbilical cord practices have also been crucial,” Dr Paul said.
Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination (MNTE) is defined as less than one neonatal tetanus case per 1000 live births per year in every district of a country. India was among only 23 countries yet to eliminate MNT.
Health Ministry officials, meanwhile, have credited a strengthening of the system, including “a renewed focus on institutional deliveries” and a “maternal and child tracking system on the mobile phone” to track pregnancy, delivery and post-delivery immunisation.
India had received the WHO certification for its ‘Polio Free’ status last March – until 2009, it had accounted for half of all cases globally.
Source:: Indian Express