Kerala kid contracts Tetanus and dies, doctors say he was never vaccinated

Arfath Ameen was admitted to the IMCH in Kozhikode on Monday and passed away on Thursday morning.
Kerala kid contracts Tetanus and dies, doctors say he was never vaccinated
Kerala kid contracts Tetanus and dies, doctors say he was never vaccinated
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In a tragic incident that highlights the importance of vaccines and immunisation, a 10-year old Kerala boy passed away after contracting Tetanus in Kozhikode.

On Monday (January 20), Arfath Ameen from Kodiyathoor in Kozhikode was admitted to the Government Medical College Hospital’s Institute of Maternal and Child Health’s (IMCH). He was referred to Kozhikode Medical college from another hospital and was directly admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, as his condition was serious.

“He had sustained an injury on his right toe which had been infected and had pus. When he was brought in, he exhibited symptoms of Tetanus such as stiffness of neck, difficulty in swallowing, fever, neck pain and breathing difficulty,” Dr C Sreekumar, Superintendent of IMCH told TNM. 

On examining the 10-year-old’s clinical history, it became evident that the child had never been immunised. As a result, his condition deteriorated fast. 

“It was not just Tetanus Toxoid (vaccine) that he had not been administered, he was not given any vaccine since birth. Immunised up to date cases are those who have been administered all vaccines. Sometimes we have cases where the children are partially immunised, having missed the second or third dose,” Dr Sreekumar explained. 

At 10:30 am on January 22 (Wednesday), the child was put on ventilator support as his condition became critical. He passed away at 11:45 am on Thursday morning. 

“With partial immunisation, if we quickly administer one more shot of vaccine, there’s a chance that the patient can fight back. This is because there is already some amount of anti-body in them (from previous doses) that will fight the disease. However, in a totally un-immunised case, the patient has zero immunity against the disease,” he added. 

As per the World Health Organisation’s guidelines, a childhood immunisation schedule of 5 doses is administered to fight Tetanus. The primary series of three doses termed DPT (Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis) is administered to the child in infancy. Between age 4-7, a booster dose of Tetanus Toxoid (TT) is given and the last dose administered in adolescence between ages 12-15. If all of these doses are given, then the person is immunised  up to date and may not require any more doses. 

India follows the WHO’s guidelines for Tetanus immunisation. However, the national immunization schedule in Universal Immunization Program (UIP) in the country recommends 7 doses of TT vaccine to be given in various combinations (3 doses of DPT in infancy, 2 booster doses at 16-24 months and 5-6 years of age and 2 TT doses at age 10 and 16. 

Further, pregnant women get at least two additional doses of TT for the first pregnancy. Adults too get TT doses following injuries. 

Tetanus or lockjaw is a fatal bacterial infection that cause painful muscle spasms, affects the nerves and has no cure. The only way to avoid contracting the disease is immunisation through vaccines. Diphtheria is a bacterial infection affecting the nose and throat that causes breathing difficulty. Pertussis or whooping cough is a respiratory tract infection that is extremely contagious. Infants are particularly susceptible to the disease which can be prevented with vaccination. 

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