Immunisation does not rule out tetanus

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Immunisation does not rule out tetanus

British Medical Journal
Publication Date
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine


Tetanus: Questions and Answers Immunization Action Coalition • St. Paul, MN 55104 • (651) 647-9009 • • • Item #P4220 (7/13) Tetanus: Questions and Answers Information about the disease and vaccines Technical content reviewed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Page 1 of 4 What causes tetanus? Tetanus is caused by a toxin (poison) produced by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. The C. tetani bac- teria cannot grow in the presence of oxygen. They produce spores that are very difficult to kill as they are resistant to heat and many chemical agents. How does tetanus spread? C. tetani spores can be found in the soil and in the intestines and feces of many household and farm animals and humans. The bacteria usually enter the human body through a puncture (in the presence of anaerobic [low oxygen] conditions, the spores will germinate). Tetanus is not spread from person to person. How long does it take to show signs of tetanus after being exposed? The incubation period varies from 3–21 days, with an average of eight days. The further the injury site is from the central nervous system, the longer the incubation period. The shorter the incubation period, the higher the risk of death. What are the symptoms of tetanus? The symptoms of tetanus are caused by the teta- nus toxin acting on the central nervous system. In the most common form of tetanus, the first sign is spasm of the jaw muscles, followed by stiffness of the neck, difficulty in swallowing, and stiffness of the abdominal muscles. Other signs include fever, sweating, elevated blood pressure, and rapid heart rate. Spasms often occur, which may last for several minutes and continue for 3–4 weeks. Complete recovery, if it occurs, may take months. How serious is tetanus? Tetanus has a high fatality rate. In recent years, teta- nus has been fatal in about 10% of reported cases. What are possible compl


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