You've Got What?
How infectious diseases are spread and simple and practical advice for preventing the spread of infection in the home and community
Tetanus is a disease of the nervous system caused by a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. This bacterium produces spores, which are resistant cells able to survive in the soil for many years.
Tetanus is a notifiable condition1
Bacteria causing tetanus are found in soil and human and animal faeces. The bacteria may contaminate puncture wounds, cuts, burns and complicated fractures. The initial wound is often quite trivial and may not have received medical attention.
Symptoms include painful muscle spasms, initially of the muscles of the neck and jaw (lockjaw), and later of the muscles of the trunk.
Tetanus is a very serious disease and is frequently fatal, particularly in infants and the elderly. It has become more common in people who use intravenous drugs.
Diagnosis is made based on a clinical presentation.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
1 day to several months, with an average of 10 days.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
Person-to-person spread does not occur.
Treatment requires the administration of tetanus antitoxin and antibiotics. Often prolonged treatment in the intensive care unit of a hospital is necessary.
1 – In South Australia the law requires doctors and laboratories to report some infections or diseases to SA Health. These infections or diseases are commonly referred to as 'notifiable conditions'.