Tetanus is characterized by muscular stiffness and spasms resulting from the effect of neurotoxins on central nervous system. Neurotoxin Tetanospasmin is produced by the spore forming bacteria Clostridium tetani. Dormant Tetanus spores are found in soil, dust and manure. When an injury is there, the spores may infect the wound and become live toxin producing bacteria. Tetanus may affect any age group, and can be fatal even under modern intensive care of the hospitals. The majority of Tetanus cases are birth-associated, and develop in newborns and mothers soon after deliveries in absence of hygiene like, using unclean instruments to cut the umbilical cord or lack of proper post birth care of the cut cord. Tetanus in children and adults after injuries, is also a potential health problem.
Symptoms of Tetanus:
Another name for Tetanus is “Lockjaw” because it can cause a person’s neck and jaw muscles to lock or unmovable, making it hard to open the mouth and swallow. It can also cause difficulty in breathing, severe muscle spasms (painful tightening) all over the body, and seizures. The muscle spasms are sometimes so intense that they can break the bones, and the patient has to spend several weeks in the hospital under intensive care. Complete recovery can take months. If left untreated, tetanus can lead to death. Tetanus develops into a disease in about 3-21 days after infection. Spasm of the glottis may cause sudden death. Newborns affected are not able to suck or feed and cry excessively.
How is Tetanus Spread?
Tetanus is not contagious like other vaccine-preventable diseases. It is caused by an infection of the wound by spores of bacteria present in the environment. Bacterium gets the entry inside the body, through the breaks or cuts in the skins made by an injury.
Protection against Tetanus can be achieved only by active (Tetanus vaccine) or passive (Tetanus-specific immunoglobulin) immunization. Tetanus vaccines are based on the modified form of Tetanus toxoid that induces the production of protective antitoxin when injected in the human body.
Tetanus toxoid vaccines are available as single Tetanus toxoid (TT), combined with Diphtheria toxoid (DT) or low-dose Diphtheria toxoid (dT) and in combination with Diphtheria and Pertussis vaccines (DTwP, DTaP and Tdap).