First tetanus death in Australia since 1993

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The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) confirmed three tetanus cases, including one death, on Thursday, encouraging residents to check their immunization status.

Tetanus is a severe disease caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani, which is commonly found in soil. The bacteria can penetrate wounds and generate a toxin, causing severe disease and death.

A woman in her 80s from Sydney died of tetanus on April 1, according to a statement provided by the NSW Ministry of Health.

The instance followed two earlier tetanus alerts in the state this year, including a woman in her 80s from Sydney and a woman in her 70s from Northern NSW.

The health authorities confirmed that these were the first tetanus cases registered in NSW in 2019, and the fatality was the first attributed to the disease since 1993.

Tetanus was contracted in all three cases through a tiny lesion on the woman’s lower thigh that had been contaminated by garden dirt.

Two of the ladies had no history of tetanus immunization, while the third received one more than 30 years ago.

Christine Selvey, head of communicable diseases at NSW Health, has urged the people, particularly older Australians, to get their tetanus immunizations up to date.

“Tetanus is a rare but potentially fatal disease. Vaccination is the best protection against tetanus,’’ the official said. “In Australia, the disease mostly occurs in older people, usually women, who are inadequately immunised.”

According to the Department of Health and Aged Care, tetanus can occur in persons of any age, although it is most common in older adults who have never been vaccinated or who were vaccinated more than ten years ago.

In Australia, the case-fatality rate is around 2%.

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