- 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.