Tetanus is a common infectious disease caused by clostridium bacteria. The organism enters the body through any open wounds, the bacterium then produces an extremely powerful toxin that paralyses muscles.
The tetanus bacteria live naturally in the soil and animal faeces but can survive many years dormant in the soil. Tetanus commonly occurs in those who are never or are improperly vaccinated; the first signs are a jaw stiffness, “lockjaw”. As the condition worstens there may be stiffness in the neck, difficulty swallowing, headache, fever, chills, muscle spasms and general deteriation. There may be an inability to urinate and prosuse sweating - hospitalisation is urgent.
Tetanus can be contacted prior to birth if the mother is infected. The current schedule for tetanus is part of a DTP or a combined dPT,polio and hepatitis vaccine; it is due at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, dTP with polio at 4 years and a dTP at around 12-15 years. Regular vaccination is essential for all persons over the age of 50 years that have not had one in the last 10 years. You are advised to have one every 10 years or 5 years if travelling overseas.
Check with your local GP or Health centre if you are unsure.