Description, Causes and Risk Factors: Alternative Name: Lockjaw. Incubation Period: 3 to 21 days. Not communicable person to person. Tetanus is a neurological disease caused by tetanus toxin. It typically arises from a skin wound that becomes contaminated by a bacterium called Clostridium tetani, which is often found in soil. Tetanus spores can enter the body through a wound that is contaminated with soil, dust, or animal waste. Spores can get into the body through even a tiny pinprick or scratch, but they usually enter through deep puncture wounds or cuts, like those made by nails or knives. Tetanus spores can also get into the body when skin is damaged by burns or by injecting contaminated street drugs. Once the spores enter a wound, they produce a powerful nerve poison that spreads through the body and causes painful symptoms. Growth of the organism occurs in anaerobic devitalized tissue. Types:
  • Generalized tetanus.
  • Local tetanus.
  • Cephalic tetanus.
  • Neonatal tetanus.
Less common forms of tetanus are local tetanus which is localized to the anatomic area of injury and cephalic tetanus which involves the cranial nerves. In countries with poor hygiene, neonatal tetanus causes significant mortality when infants born to unimmunized women have infection of the umbilical stump that was contaminated with soil or alternative medical treatment. Symptoms:
  • Muscle spasms in the jaw, this can spread to the muscles of the upper arms, abdomen, and thighs.
  • Difficulty in swallowing.
  • Stiffness or pain in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, or back.
Complications of tetanus include fractures, difficulty breathing (due to spasms of the respiratory muscles), and abnormal heart rhythms. In addition, nosocomial infections related to prolonged hospitalization can occur. Death results in approximately 11% of affected persons. Diagnosis: Diagnosis of tetanus is based on the clinical presentation. There are no laboratory tests for tetanus. Treatment: Immunization: An effective vaccine against tetanus has been available for many years. It is usually given to children combined with diphtheria and pertussis vaccines in a shot called DTP. A child needs five DTP shots, given at specified intervals, for complete protection. Tetanus booster shots are recommended every 10 years. An injection of tetanus immune globulin (TIG) given as soon as possible after a tetanus-prone injury can also help neutralize the poison that has not entered the nervous system. TIG is available in most hospitals. If TIG is not available, intravenous immune globulin can be considered. Additional treatment measures include supportive care, administration of tetanus vaccine, cleaning and debriding wounds, and administering antibiotics. Proper care of wounds -- Cleaning all wounds, removing dead tissue, and using antibiotics for contaminated or infected wounds can reduce the likelihood of getting tetanus. Disclaimer: The following tests, drugs and medications, surgical procedures are in some way related to, or used in the treatment. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.  


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