By Beth Zuber

Signs and Symptoms

  • Stiffness and Spasms of the jaw neck and other muscles.
  • Muscular Irritability
  • Fever

Incubation is anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks (Average of 8 Days)

Severe spasms can effect the neck and respiratory muscles, making it hard to breathe

Steps to Tetanus

  1. Clostridium tetani (tetanus causing bacteria)
  2. enters through deep wounds
  3. produce tetanospasmin
  4. affects the nerves
  5. causes muscles stiffness and spasm

Homeostasis and Levels of Organization


So, the toxin binds/interacts with inhibitory neuron transmitters (Chemicals that prevent contractons) and the contractions can not be stopped, therefore it continues.


There are laboratory no tests that can be done. Doctors usually make physical examinations, by monitoring muscle spasms and stiffness, and by the immunization history.

Treatment and Prognosis


  • Tetanus immunization shot to prevent it (with booster)

If you have a wound

  • Keep the wound clean
  • Consider the source (call a doctor)
  • Use and antibiotic
  • Cover the wound
  • Change the dressing

In Serious Cases

  • If there was no previous treatment the patient will need immediate treatment
  • they will require a muscle relaxant (Diazepam).
  • If the contractions continue a neuromuscular blocker will be needed
  • They will also need high dose antibiotics
  • Surgery may be done to clean out the wound
  • The patient will live unless they do not get treatment (10% with treatment, 1 in 4 without)
  • Death would be caused by respiratory failure or exhaustion

Recent Advances

We understand tetanus fairly well and it is completely preventable. Most schools are requiring the tetanus vaccine to be done. The vaccine consists of inactive tetanis toxins that are immunogenic (active an immune response). A booster shot is required every 10 years.


Introduction to Tetanus. (2011, February 7). In Family Medicine Help. Retrieved April 4, 2013

Microbiology annimation. (2008). In W. W. Notron and Company. Retrieved April 7, 2013

Clostridium tetani. (n.d.). In University of Connecticut-molecular and cell biology. Retrieved April 7, 2013, from http://web.uconn.edu/mcbstaff/graf/Student%20presentations/C%20tetani/Ctetani.html

Tetanus. (2010, September 10). In Mayo clinic. Retrieved April 7, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tetanus/DS00227/DSECTION=tests-and-diagnosis