Tetanus: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Tetanus

Tetanus is a common infection in our environment. It is a terrible disease that enters your body through wounds & can kill in days if nothing is done fast.

Table of Content

What is Tetanus?

Tetanus is a bacterial infection that gives rise to involuntary muscle contraction and can lead to death. The organism that causes tetanus affects the nerves. The infection can be prevented by vaccination but, there is no cure!

What is the cause of Tetanus?

Tetanus results from a toxin (poison) produced by the bacteria known as Clostridium tetani.
This poison makes your muscles to act on their own (i.e. involuntarily), becoming rigid like this;

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Rigid Face seen in infection with tetanus

This bacteria that cause produce spores. These spores can be inactive or dormant. The spores enable tetanus bacteria to survive even when environmental conditions are difficult. When conditions become favorable, the spores then grow into bacteria. So, even rusted irons & metal parts can harbor this bacteria in their dormant forms. That is why it is always important to get a tetanus shot after sustaining injury by such parts.

Once in the body, this bacteria start to produce toxins which travel throughout the body & stop certain nerves from sending signals to other nerves. As a result, muscles start to contract on their own.

Tetanus commonly kills by causing asphyxia (deficient supply of oxygen to the body due to abnormal breathing), or sudden cardiac death.

How can I get Tetanus (transmission)?

Tetanus lives in soil & animal feces. It can live there for years. It may then enter your body through;

  • Wounds contaminated with soil or feces
  • Skin punctures by non-sterile needles (e.g. when injecting illegal drugs, tattoo or body piercing)
  • injury from rusted metal parts.

Unfortunately, sometimes the injury is so small people don’t even go to a doctor & can’t remember when it happened. Injuries that involve dead skin (such as burns, frostbite (from ice), gangrene, or crush injuries) are more likely to cause the disease.

Pregnancy: In pregnancy, it can also results when a woman’s womb or uterus is damaged during an induced abortion or childbirth.

Babies: In some places in Nigeria & other African countries, contamination of the stump of the umbilical cord can cause tetanus in newborns.

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Contaminate umbilical stump

Is there a Treatment/Cure for Tetanus?

No there is no cure for the disease. The best method is to prevent the disease buy following the strategies below.

How do I Prevent Tetanus?

It has always been known that prevention is better than cure. The same applies here. We can prevent the disease by;
Vaccination: during childhood plus booster doses every 10 years during adulthood can prevent tetanus.
That’s why the disease occurs mainly in people who have not been vaccinated or not kept their vaccinations up to date. To see all the vaccination that you are expected to receive from child to adulthood, click here.

Education: We can defeat tetanus by spreading this message to let more people know about the disease & encouraging both adults & children to ensure they are well immunized against the disease.
You never can tell when you’ll sustain an injury!

If you have any question or confusion, kindly use the comment form below, and I’d get back to you as soon as I can.

Authors

  • Ubechu Samuel chinonso attended the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, in ituku-ozalla, Enugu state, Nigeria.

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