Tetanus is caused by the spores of the bacterium Clostridium tetani that live in soil. Wounds coming into contact with the bacterium spores become a breeding ground due to poor oxygen present. The bacterium will produce the toxin tetanospasmin that results in uncontrollable muscle spasms. These spasms cause the jaw to "lock", hence the disease is sometimes called "lockjaw".
Global tetanus cases
Worldwide immunization coverage
Typically the spasms will affect the muscles of the jaw; as the disease progresses, the face & neck are also affected. Soon more distant muscles such as those in the legs & arms will be affected by the toxin. Without treatment, death is the final outcome.
Thankfully, the disease can be prevented. Today immunization against this disease is necessary in infants; if one comes into contact with potential spores, injection of tetanus immune globulin is available in most clinics.
Always be careful! Injection should be administered less than 24 hrs after the wound is inflicted. Check with your local clinic on the available vaccines & ensure that you & your child have received immunization at appropriate times.