A vaccine preventable illness

Overview and Explanation of Disease

Tetanus is not like many other preventable diseases because it is not spread through people. It is a bacteria that is found in dirt or dust and enters a person's body through a cut or wound. Tetanus is most easily prevented through immunizations that occur as an infant in a series and boosters every ten years throughout your life.

History of Tetanus

Descriptions of tetanus are dated back to the 5th century. It wasn't until 1884 the cause of the disease was discovered and identified by Antonio Carle. In the early 1990s to late 1940s 500-600 cases were reported in the United States each year. The rates of infection steadily declined after the 1940s to around 50-100 cases a year. This was due to the invention of the tetanus vaccine. Today there are only around 29 cases of tetanus a year in the United States and around 1 out of 10 die from the disease.

Signs and Symptoms

The incubation period ranges between 3 to 21 days. Tetanus is also known as "lockjaw" due jaw muscles tightening and causing the mouth to be unable to open. Other signs and symptoms include:


-Jaw cramping

-Muscle tightness


-Increased heart rate and blood pressure

-Neck tightness and spasms

Recovery from tetanus can last months and cause weeks of treatment in a hospital



Tetanus is not a communicable disease. The disease caused by an exotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. This is found in dirt, dust and manure. The bacteria enters the body by a wound. Puncture wounds, wounds contaminated by soil, crush injuries and burns are the most common sources for contamination.


Tetanus causes severe spasms and tightness of the muscles. This can cause many complications within the body. One of the most common results is spinal cord injuries or broken bones. Due to the stress put on the body many people also get complications to their heart such as heart attacks or blood clots. Blood clots also cause problems with the respiratory system. Due the inability of the lungs to expand pneumonia is common. Tetanus puts stress on all parts of the body and causes death in 1 out of 10 people infected with the disease.

Current and Recommended Control Measures

The first way to control tetanus is by thoroughly cleaning out wounds. This includes removing any dirt on foreign substances in the wound. It is very important to get wounds checked out by your physician and to keep updated on your vaccinations.

Tetanus vaccinations begin at 2 months old. Five doses of the vaccine are given to each child and then require a 10 year booster there after. It is very important for everyone to be fully vaccinated against all preventable diseases. Vaccinations should be mandated for all children to help prevent the spread of diseases and to protect children against unnecessary disease such as tetanus.