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Tetanus outbreak in Sumatra shocks doctors
January 14, 2005
Scores of tsunami survivors are dying of tetanus, a rare but often deadly disease that has caught
health officials off-guard.
Deaths have been reported in Banda Aceh and Meulaboh, at either end of the Indonesian disaster
zone in Sumatra. They are almost certainly being replicated in the cut-off towns and villages
along the coast in between, experts say.
Tetanus, once better known as lockjaw, has been almost wiped out in the West through
childhood immunisation and is now uncommon even in disaster areas. One doctor said this was
the worst outbreak in the world for years. quot;I might have expected to see one case in my career,quot;
said Charles Chan Johnson, from Singapore, working in Banda Aceh's general hospital, Zainal
Abidin. quot;Now I have 20 patients in one ward.quot;
Most had symptoms too far advanced to be treated. quot;I am afraid nearly all these patients will
die,quot; Dr Johnson said. Immunisation is regarded as the most important means of prevention
because once symptoms appear the mortality rate is high. But in Sumatra primary health care
was limited before the tsunami.
Medical workers said the disaster provided perfect conditions for tetanus, a form of blood
poisoning. Many people were injured by debris and ended up lying in dirty water. But the
number arriving at hospitals and field clinics with the classic rictus quot;smilequot; of lockjaw has taken
them by surprise.
There have been 40 confirmed cases and 20 deaths in Banda Aceh, and seven cases and five
deaths in Meulaboh.
- Daily Telegraph
This article is about a large amount of tsunami survivors are dying of tetanus. Even
though tetanus has been all but eliminated in the West, the Eastern third world countries do not
have the medical resources nor money to vaccinate all of their people. The tsunami left many
people perfectly set up to catch the disease. They were lying in dirty water after being cut by
debris. I think that if the world helped out the third world countries better rather than going
farther and farther into debt the people of Sumatra may have been able to avoid the 25 deaths
they already had. This is the worst tetanus outbreak in the world for many years. All of this could
be avoided if only government funding would help build up the medical systems in these
countries. I feel that these deaths were all for naught.