Amish woman develops rare infection after giving birth: 8 things to know

An Amish woman in Kentucky developed obstetric tetanus after a home birth in 2016, according to a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report from the CDC. The disease is so rare that the CDC did not identify any cases of the illness from 1972 to 2008.

Here are eight things to know about obstetric tetanus and this case in particular.

1. Obstetric tetanus occurs during pregnancy or within 6 weeks of the birth and occurs when wounds are contaminated with Clostridium tetani spores or using contaminated tools during nonsterile deliveries or abortions.

2. Tetanus in general is rare in the U.S., with only about 30 cases reported annually. Nearly all tetanus cases in the U.S. occur in people who never received a tetanus vaccine or in people who do not get their booster shots.

3. In the 2016 case, the woman was not vaccinated for tetanus.

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4. She delivered a baby at home with the assistance of an unlicensed community childbirth assistant.

5. Nine days after giving birth, she experienced facial numbness and neck pain which eventually progressed to stiff neck and jaw and difficulty swallowing and breathing.

6. She was admitted to a hospital where she was diagnosed and treated for tetanus, requiring intubation and mechanical ventilation. She was discharged after roughly a month in the hospital.

7. Because of this case, the local health department conducted door-to-door home visits to encourage Amish community members to get vaccinated. It resulted in 47 people (12 percent) getting vaccinated for either diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis or just tetanus and diphtheria.

8. "This case highlights the importance of tetanus vaccination for all persons as recommended by ACIP [Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices]," the CDC report reads. "Trust between the Amish community, local health department, and a familiar healthcare provider, as well as working within community members' homes, and providing culturally appropriate education and recommendations through community leaders, facilitated vaccinations of some persons."

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