Farmers prone to tetanus, numbers shoot up

More and more adults are contracting tetanus though the disease can be easily prevented, doctors say. 

Consider the case of 42-year-old Narayanappa (name changed) who is undergoing treatment at the Epidemic Diseases Hospital (Isolation Hospital) in Bengaluru. 

In March, while having food at his home in Maddur, Mandya district, Narayanappa could not close his jaw after taking a bite. He first saw a doctor at a private hospital near his home and later came to Bengaluru for treatment. He underwent multiple scans, including the MRI, and foot a bill of Rs 50,000 but doctors were unable to diagnose his condition. 

Days later, he was referred to the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) where doctors immediately diagnosed that he had tetanus and referred him to Isolation Hospital. 

"It's typical of a tetanus patient to have a locked jaw and stiffness in the neck," said Dr Ansar Ahmed, medical superintendent, Epidemic Diseases Hospital. He added that timely diagnosis at Nimhans had saved Narayanappa's life.

"Most of the patients that we see are farmers and have a similar history. They usually work in the farmland barefoot. Even a small injury can cause pores to enter their body and lead to tetanus," he said. "Cow dung also has these spores. When used in the farmland, it causes bacterial infection."

The hospital usually sees about five admissions every month. This year, however, the numbers have spiralled, Dr Ahmed said. There were 10 cases in the first two weeks of April alone. There were eight cases in March. Maddur and Srinivaspur (Kolar district) account for the most cases. The disease is treated with immunoglobins and muscle relaxants. On average, three out of ten cases could be fatal, according to doctors.  

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