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Monday, February 9, 2015

Tetanus- How Much Do You Know???

Tetanus is caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, the spores of which are widespread in the environment. The disease is caused by the action of a neurotoxin, produced by the bacteria when they grow in the absence of oxygen, e.g. in dirty wounds or in the umbilical cord if it is cut with a non-sterile instrument. 
Tetanus is characterized by muscle spasms, initially in the jaw muscles. As the disease progresses, mild stimuli may trigger generalized tetanic seizure-like activity, which contributes to serious complications and eventually death unless supportive treatment is given.
Tetanus can be prevented by the administration of tetanus toxoid, which induces specific antitoxins. To prevent maternal and neonatal tetanus, appropriate doses of tetanus toxoid need to be given to the mother before or during pregnancy, and clean delivery and cord care practices need to be ensured.

Key facts

  • Tetanus is acquired when the spores of the bacterium Clostridium Tetani infect a wound or a newborn's umbilical stump. 
  • These spores are universally present in the soil. 
  • People of all ages can get tetanus but the disease is particularly common and serious in newborn babies (neonatal tetanus). 
  • Neonatal tetanus, which is mostly fatal, is particularly common in rural areas where deliveries are at home without adequate sterile procedures.
  • Neonatal tetanus requires treatment in a medical facility, often in a referral hospital.


  • Tetanus can be prevented through immunization with tetanus-toxoid (TT) containing vaccines. 
  • Neonatal tetanus can be prevented by immunizing women of childbearing age with TT, either during pregnancy or outside of pregnancy. This protects the mother and – and through a transfer of tetanus antibodies to the fetus – also her baby. 
  • Clean practices when a mother is delivering a child are also important to prevent neonatal and maternal tetanus. 
  • People who recover from tetanus do not have natural immunity and can be infected again and therefore need to be immunized. 
  • To be protected for life, an individual should receive 3 doses of diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis vaccine in infancy, followed by a TT-containing booster at school-entry age (4-7 years), in adolescence (12-15 years), and in early adulthood.


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