What is it?
Tetanus is a serious bacterial disease caused by the toxin of Clostridium tetani
Tetanus can interfere with your ability to breathe and it can be fatal
What are the symptoms?
Muscle spasms in the jaw, pain and stiffness in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, abdomen, arms and thighs
Complications can include permanent disability and death
After infection it normally takes about a week for symptoms to develop but onset can range from a few days to several weeks
How can I contract tetanus?
Any wound of any size that breaks the skin can result in a tetanus infection
This includes puncture wounds from splinters, animal bites, body piercings, tattoos, burns, surgical incisions, crush injuries and broken bones
Tetanus is not infectious and does not spread from person to person
Where can I contract it?
The c. tetani bacteria that causes tetanus is present worldwide
However, cases are mainly seen in developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America
What vaccines are available?
The tetanus vaccine
This vaccine is usually combined with diphtheria and pertussis (the TdaP vaccine)
It is also combined with other vaccines such as hepatitis B, polio or haemeophilus influenza type B vaccines given in early childhood
How many shots will I need?
If you received a tetanus vaccine in your early childhood you should have a booster every 10 years to maintain your immunity
Will I need a booster?
Adults should get a tetanus and diphtheria (Td) booster every 10 years
You cannot become immune to tetanus so you will need to get boosters even if you have had tetanus
How can I prevent tetanus?
Complete the childhood primary series with a tetanus-containing vaccine
Get a first booster during adolescence
Get a subsequent booster every 10 years
Additional shots of tetanus immunoglobulin may be required if you have a wound or injury that could cause tetanus
What is the treatment?
If you have a skin wound clean and dress it right away
This is especially important if you have a deep puncture wound that may be contaminated with feces, soil or saliva
There is no cure for tetanus
Tetanus infection often requires intensive, long-term supportive care and medications to ease symptoms
Patients usually receive sedatives to control their muscle spasms
Tetanus patients may also need antibiotics to fight the tetanus bacteria and an antitoxin such as tetanus immune globulin to neutralize tetanus toxin