What history findings suggest neonatal tetanus (tetanus neonatorum)?

Updated: Jan 18, 2019
  • Author: Patrick B Hinfey, MD; Chief Editor: John L Brusch, MD, FACP  more...
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Neonatal tetanus (tetanus neonatorum) is generalized tetanus that results from infection of a neonate. It primarily occurs in underdeveloped countries and accounts for as many as one half of all neonatal deaths. The usual cause is the use of contaminated materials to sever or dress the umbilical cord in newborns of unimmunized mothers.

The usual incubation period after birth is 3-10 days, which explains why this form of tetanus is sometimes referred to as the disease of the seventh day. The newborn usually exhibits irritability, poor feeding, rigidity, facial grimacing, and severe spasms with touch. Mortality exceeds 70%.

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