Tetanus | Symptoms, Treatment, Vaccines
What is Tetanus?
Tetanus, or lockjaw as it is also known, is caused by bacteria most often found in soil, dust and the faeces of domestic animals. The likelihood of contracting tetanus is greatest in the event of sustaining deep, dirty puncture wounds where there is little bleeding and an absence of oxygen. Although not as common as it once was, patients with tetanus who do not receive immediate treatment may not make a full recovery.
What Are The Symptoms?
After an average incubation period of about 10 days, the disease attacks the nervous system, causing fever, headaches, irritability, fatigue, muscle spams and rigidity, particularly in the jaw, neck and limbs. This can eventually lead to total locking of the jaw, respiratory arrest, heart failure and ultimately death.
How Is It Contracted?
Tetanus is usually contracted through bacteria spores entering into minor wounds and burns via soil, dust or animal faeces, most frequently during the summer or in warm climates.
Who Is At Most Risk?
Tetanus spores are found all over the world but certain groups of people will be at greater risk than others. These include:
- People who have not had a tetanus booster in the last 10 years
- People who have recovered from tetanus
- Those who have never received a vaccination against tetanus
- The elderly
- Anyone indulging in outdoor activity, e.g. gardening, farming, firefighting, construction
- People hiking or camping in rural or forest areas
Where Are You At Risk?
Tetanus is found worldwide.
The most effective form of prevention is vaccination, which in the UK, is part of the routine child immunisation programme. Tetanus boosters should be obtained every 10 years, even if only travelling within the UK.
When Should You Be Vaccinated?
The first dose can be given at any time, while the second and third injection in the dosing regimen should be administered at monthly intervals. A booster dose should then be given after 10 years, and a further injection after another 10 years maintains levels of protection that are probably life-long.
Check with your practice nurse as soon as you have decided where and when you are travelling, and they will advise on an appropriate vaccination schedule for you.
Does The Vaccine Have Any Side Effects?
Like most injections, some people may experience tenderness and redness at the site of the injection. Tetanus cannot be contracted directly from the vaccine.
Source Of information
GlaxoSmithKline, Wikipedia, local doctors, local hospitals, newspaper articles, various.
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