Last edited 05/2022 and last reviewed 05/2022

The organism Clostridium tetani is ubiquitous throughout the world (1).

  • the WHO reported that about 34,000 newborns died from neonatal tetanus in 2015 (2)
  • it is relatively rare in the developed world (1)

In UK,

  • Between 1984 and 2017, there were 293 cases of tetanus (combined data from notifications, deaths and laboratory reports) in England and Wales (3)

    • sixty three per cent occurred in individuals aged 45 years or over, and 21% were in individuals aged from 25 to 44 years

    • highest incidence of tetanus was in adults over 65 years of age

    • no cases of tetanus reported in infants or children under five years of age. Eight cases were notified in Northern Ireland between 1984 and 2017

  • tetanus in injecting drug users (particularly intramuscular and subcutaneous) is reported rarely in UK, but 24 cases of tetanus were reported in between July 2003 and February 2004 (1)

Tetanus remains an important problem especially in low-income areas, where immunisation coverage is low and unclean birth practices are common. Neonatal tetanus occurs when nonsterile instruments are used to cut the umbilical cord or when contaminated material is used to cover the umbilical stump (2).