Risk factors for mortality in neonatal tetanus: a 15-year experience in Sagamu, Nigeria

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Background: Neonatal tetanus (NNT) is a major cause of newborn deaths especially in the developing world. While efforts aimed at eradicating NNT should be sustained, it is equally imperative to reduce death among affected infants. Therefore, the factors associated with mortality rate in this condition need to be studied.

Methods: The records of infants with NNT over a 15-year period (1991-2005) were reviewed. A statistical comparison of the survivors and fatalities for relevant clinical characteristics was done, and the determinants of fatality rate were also determined using logistic regression.

Results: Ninety-six of 151 newborns with NNT died, giving a mortality rate of 63.6%. The case fatality
rate during the study period varied between 33.3% and 100%. More deaths occurred in the infants with
low birth weight (P=0.004) within 1 day at the onset of symptoms (P<0.001), whose mothers aged 18 years or less (P=0.001) belonged to socio-economic class V (P=0.001). Determinants of mortality in these infants with NNT included low socio-economic class (P=0.002), no antitetanus vaccination (P=0.006), presentation with spasms (P<0.001), and non-administration of anti-tetanus serum
during treatment (P=0.013).

Conclusions: The mortality rate in infants with NNT remains signifi cantly high in Nigeria. Improved
maternal anti-tetanus vaccination and timely recognition and treatment of affected infants may jointly reduce the incidence and fatality rate of NNT.

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