Tetanus (Lockjaw)
Travel Health

From: Travel Health Information and Advice


Tetanus (Lockjaw)
Tetanus is a bacterial infection that is transmitted through an open wound and can be prevented through an immunization program.

Cause of Tetanus
Tetanus is caused by the Clostridium tetani bacteria which is found in the environment such as in the soil and animal manure.

The bacteria enter the human body through a break in the skin such as a graze, cut or puncture wound. Once the bacteria enter the body they start to multiply and release a toxin called tetanospasm into the bloodstream which causes disruption to the nerves and muscles which subsequently contract and spasm.

Symptoms of Tetanus
The initial symptoms of tetanus can begin anywhere from a few days to three weeks after exposure and often include:

Complications such as abnormal heart rhythm and respiratory failure can occur and if left untreated the disease can be fatal or lead to permanent disability.

Prevention Of Tetanus
Prevention is through vaccination.

Diagnosing Tetanus
Diagnosing tetanus is achieved through evaluation of the patients symptoms and their prior vaccination records.

Treatment of Tetanus
The patient is usually hospitalized so that antibiotics can be given and symptoms carefully monitored so that if any complications arise then assistance can be given, for example with breathing apparatus. The use of sedatives and an antitoxin may be given depending on the circumstances.

If treatment is given early enough then once the toxin has been eliminated from the patients blood stream they will often fully recover with no lasting side effects. A tetanus vaccination should be given to prevent an infection from happening again. However older people and children are especially vulnerable to the disease and do not always survive.

Most At Risk
Anyone who has not been vaccinated.


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