Tetanus, or lockjaw, is a rare but very serious bacterial infection which produces a toxin that affects the brain and nervous system. The toxin causes severe muscle contractions and spasms, especially in the jaw muscles.
Unlike other vaccine-preventable diseases, tetanus does not spread from person to person. Rather, it is caused by a bacteria usually found in soil, dust and manure that enters the human body through a cut or wound.
Nearly all cases of tetanus occur in people who have never received a tetanus vaccine or who don’t stay current on their booster shots.
Who Should Get the Tetanus Vaccine?
DTaP booster vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis and is part of the standard childhood immunization series.
The CDC recommends a tetanus shot for adults every 10 years. A booster vaccination is importantly recommended if a person sustains a wound and more than five years have passed since the last vaccination.
Pregnant women should get vaccinated against tetanus during their third trimester.
Important Facts about Tetanus
- Although treatment for tetanus exists, it is not uniformly effective. Receiving the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from tetanus.
- Although it usually takes about eight days for tetanus infection to cause problems, the incubation period can sometimes be up to six months.
- Tetanus is the only vaccine-preventable disease that is infectious but not contagious. You cannot catch tetanus from another person.
- Approximately 10-20% of reported cases of tetanus are fatal. It is not something to take lightly.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Tetanus
- Muscle contractions, spasms, stiffness (especially in jaw area)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
- Bloody stool (feces)
- Sensitivity to touch
- Sore throat
- Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)
MedSpring offers the tetanus vaccine from 8am-8pm, 7 days a week. Walk-ins are welcome, or call ahead to make an appointment.
Sources: Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/tetanus