Tetanus is a dangerous bacterial infection that attacks
the central nervous system (CNS) and causes muscles to tighten up. The
infection usually causes muscle contractions in the jaw and neck region but can
eventually spread throughout the body. If not promptly treated, the infection
can be life-threatening. Ten to twenty percent of patients infected with tetanus
will die. Tetanus can be prevented through immunization, and in the U.S., it is
given to children through the DTap shot. This shot is a three-in-one shot that
vaccinates children from diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus. Sometime around eleven-years-old,
a child should get a booster shot, another dose of the vaccine, and adults
should have a booster every ten years. There are only around thirty U.S. cases
a year. To help parents easily have their children vaccinated, shots are often
given free in public schools.
tetani is the bacteria that causes Tetanus. The bacteria can be found in dust,
dirt, and animal feces. Spores are small reproductive bodies produced by
certain organisms. Open wounds allow these spores to enter the bloodstream and
cause infection. The bacteria then spreads to the CNS and makes a toxin called
tetanospasmin. This toxin blocks the nerve signals from your spinal cord to
your muscles, and can lead to severe muscle spasms. The tetanus bacteria is linked
to and often caused by wounds that cause the skin to break such as crush
injuries, burns, puncture wounds, animal bites, and dental infections, all circumstances
that allow bacteria to enter the skin.
affects the nerves that control muscles, which can lead to difficulty
swallowing. Patients can also experience spasms and stiffness in muscles, most
likely those in the jaw, abdomen, chest, back, and neck. According to the
Center for Disease Control, other common Tetanus symptoms such as seizures,
headache, fever and sweating, changes in blood pressure, and increased heart
rate may occur. The
time between exposure to the bacteria, and the illness actually taking effect,
is between three and twenty one days. Symptoms usually appear within fourteen
days when the infection sets in. Infections that develop more quickly following
exposure are typically more severe and need more extreme treatment.
heath-care professional will most likely perform a physical exam to check for
symptoms of tetanus, such as muscle stiffness and painful spasms. Lab tests are
not required to determine if a person has tetanus. However, your doctor may
still perform lab tests to help make sure the patient doesn’t have another
disease with similar symptoms, such as meningitis or rabies. Your doctor will
also check your immunization history and base his diagnosis from that. Those
who have not been immunized are at a much higher risk of contracting tetanus.
The earlier the disease is diagnosed and treatment begins, the better the
chances of recovery. If a person has an injury and suspects that tetanus is a
possibility, a doctor should be seen immediately.
dependent upon the extent of the patient’s symptoms. Tetanus is treated with
multiple types of therapies and medications. Healthcare professionals will
clean the wound to eradicate the bacteria in the body. Physicians may prescribe penicillin or metronidazole for treatment.
These antibiotics prevent the bacteria from spreading and producing the
neurotoxin that causes muscles to spasm and stiffen. If a patient has
difficulty swallowing and breathing, he/she may need a breathing tube, or
ventilator, to assist with breathing. A tetanus vaccine is also given along
with the treatment to reduce the chance of recurrence. If the doctor thinks the infected wound is unusually large, he/she may
surgically remove as much of the damaged and infected muscle as safely
Tetanus is a disease that
people should not risk. If an injured person suspects the possibility of
infection and his/her booster shot is overdue, a doctor should be consulted
immediately. Prevention is key. Children should be protected if they received
their required shots on schedule, and adults should receive a booster every ten
years, or upon injury, just to be on the safe side.
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