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Tetanus Cases Rare but Some Populations More Vulnerable

Older adults, injection drug users, people with diabetes more likely to be infected

THURSDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- Tetanus cases and fatalities in the United States have decreased by more than 95 percent and more than 99 percent, respectively, since the disease became reportable in 1947, but sporadic cases do still occur, and some populations are more at risk for contracting the potentially life-threatening disease, according to research published in the April 1 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

CDC researchers analyzed tetanus cases reported to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System between 2001 and 2008 to update a previous report and identify populations most at risk for the disease.

The researchers identified 233 reports of tetanus during that time, with a fatality rate of 13.2 percent of the 197 cases for which outcomes were known. The overall incidence rate was 0.10 per one million. The incidence was 0.23 among those aged 65 and older, however. In Hispanics, the incidence rate was nearly twice that of non-Hispanics, which could be accounted for by 16 cases among Hispanic injection drug users. In addition, 15.4 percent of 195 patients had diabetes, and 15.3 percent of 176 used injection drugs.

"Tetanus remains a rare but life-threatening disease in the United States. Health care providers should ensure up-to-date tetanus toxoid-containing vaccination of all their patients, especially persons aged ≥65 years, persons with diabetes, and injection drug users," the authors write.

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