Tetanus is a serious disease of the central nervous system that is caused by bacteria that is found in soil. The disease is spread through open cuts and wounds that have been contaminated with infected soil.
Tetanus is found throughout the world.
Tetanus toxin spreads through the bloodstream and can cause serious damage to the nervous system. Early symptoms of the disease include stiffness of the jaw muscles (lockjaw), difficulties swallowing and muscle spasms. The disease can spread to affect more muscles in the body including the respiratory muscles. This can cause difficulties with breathing and death can occur.
Treatment for tetanus usually involves giving immunoglobulin and antibiotics. Those infected will often require intensive care until the effects of the disease wear off.
Recommendations for travellers
A combination vaccine called Revaxis is available to protect adults against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. Children normally receive these vaccinations as part of the national schedule. Travellers should ensure that they have had a primary course of vaccine and receive a booster every 10 years if they are travelling to an area where diphtheria, tetanus or polio are considered high risk.
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