Tetanus or also known as Lockjaw is caused a Clostridium tetani bacterium which produces a highly dangerous toxin that affects the brain and the nervous system. Tetanus was well known to ancient people who also recognized the relationship between wounds and fatal muscle spasms. In 1897 Edmond Nocard proved that tetanus antitoxin gave passive immunity in humans and could be used for treatment. In 1924 P.Descombey developed the vaccine which was used to prevent tetanus induced by battle wounds. Clostridium tetani spores can be found anywhere most commonly found in animal manure and contaminated soil. When the Clostridium tetani spores enter the body they multiply rapidly and release a neurotoxin which affects the nervous system. 

Clostridium tetani enters the body from cuts, wounds or other punctures on the surface of the body; it can also enter the body by burns, animal bites, using dirty needles, tattoos, body piercing, circumcision, etc. However Tetanus infection is not contagious, you cannot catch tetanus from another infected individual. The best way to treat a Tetanus infection is by a vaccine. During and after recovery the recovering patient must be taken care of as the disease does not provide natural immunization against a repeat episode. 

Most cases of tetanus occur in people who have never been immunized or who did not have a booster shot within the preceding decade. The Tetanus vaccine is usually the best way to prevent this ailment. Some of the complications with Tetanus infection are fractures, aspiration pneumonia, laryngospasm, tetanic seizures, pulmonary embolism, and kidney failure. When one receives a deep or dirty wound we should get a booster shot done if not taken in last 5 years.

Signs and Symptoms usually occur within 10 days of infection however this can vary from 4 days to 3 weeks, and some cases maybe months. Some of the most common symptoms are described in the following:

  • Muscle symptoms – muscles become stiff, usually starts with the chewing muscles
  • Breathing difficulty might occur – this occurs due to the stiffness of the muscles
  • Bloody stools – some amount of blood plasma excreted along with the normal discharge of body wastes
  • Diarrhea- abnormally loose or watery stools
  • Fever- body temperature might rise up
  • Headache- severe head pains might occur
  • Touch sensitive – sharp irritation specially on the edges of the teeth 
  • Sore throat – irritation in the throat and cough and cold
  • Sweating- excessive water loss from the body through sweat pores
  • Tachycardia- can also lead to rapid rise in the rate of heartbeat
  • Asphyxia- leads to suffocation
  • Heart attack, Kidney failure, Septicemia which finally leads to blood poisoning

The vaccine is usually given to children as a DTaP shot which consists of 5 shots, give on the arm or thigh. The booster is given between 11 and 18 years, and then one every 10 years. While traveling to an area where tetanus is common one should check with their doctor regarding their vaccinations. Usually whooping cough vaccine is added to the tetanus vaccine. Minor cuts from rusted or contaminated edges must not be ignored and must be treated immediately or taken up with a doctor to avoid any confusion and further damages.

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