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Bacteria
Clostridium tetani.
Disease
Tetanus
Symptoms

Tetanus often begins with mild spasms in the jaw muscles (lockjaw). The spasms can also affect your chest, neck, back, and abdominal muscles. Back muscle spasms often cause arching, calledopisthotonos.
Sometimes the spasms affect muscles that help with breathing, which can lead to breathing problems.
Prolonged muscular action causes sudden, powerful, and painful contractions of muscle groups. This is called tetany. These episodes can cause fractures and muscle tears.
Other symptoms include:

  • Drooling
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever
  • Hand or foot spasms
  • Irritability
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Uncontrolled urination or defecation
Treatment

Treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Bedrest with a nonstimulating environment (dim light, reduced noise, and stable temperature)
  • Medicine to reverse the poison (tetanus immune globulin)
  • Muscle relaxers such as diazepam
  • Sedatives
  • Surgery to clean the wound and remove the source of the poison (debridement)

Breathing support with oxygen, a breathing tube, and a breathing machine may be necessary.

Preventive measures

Tetanus is completely preventable by being immunized (vaccinated). Immunization usually protects against tetanus infection for 10 years.
In the United States, immunizations begin in infancy with the DTaP series of shots. The DTaP vaccine is a 3-in-1 vaccine that protects against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus.
Td vaccine or Tdap vaccine is used to maintain immunity in those age 7 and older. Tdap vaccine should be given once, before age 65, as a substitute for Td for those who have not had Tdap. Td boosters are recommended every 10 years starting at age 19.
Older teenagers and adults who get injuries, especially puncture-type wounds, should get a tetanus booster if it has been more than 10 years since the last booster.
If you have been injured outside or in any way that makes contact with soil likely, contact your health care provider about your risk of getting tetanus infection. Injuries and wounds should be thoroughly cleaned right away. If the tissue of the wound is dying, a doctor will need to remove the tissue.
You may have heard that you can get tetanus if you are injured by a rusty nail. This is true only if the nail is dirty and has the tetanus bacteria on it. It is the dirt on the nail, not the rust, that carries the risk of tetanus.

 
 
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