Tetanus is a worldwide risk, however, it's of higher prevalence in China, India, Africa and in certain South American countries due to a lack of suitable vaccination programmes.
A tetanus infection occurs most often when the skin is cut by an object containing or coated with the bacterium; rusty nails are often associated with this infection. The bacteria produce toxins which interfere with the normal working of the muscles, leading to the symptoms below. It can be treated before symptoms occur with the tetanus vaccine and tetanus immune globulin, or after symptoms develop with muscle relaxants and intravenous immunoglobulin.
Tetanus symptoms consist most noticeably of muscle spasms, which typically begin 7 to 10 days after infection. These can become severe enough to fracture the patient’s bones. Other symptoms can include tachycardia, high blood pressure, headache, fever, sweating and difficulty swallowing. Tetanus is fatal in some 10% of cases.
• Course: A set of 6 doses throughout childhood is recommended, though ‘booster doses of the vaccine should be taken every 10 years.
• When to get vaccinated: At least one month before travel, or within 48 hours of an injury which breaks the skin.
• Side effects: Side effects include redness at the injection site, or more rarely fatigue or muscle pain. Severe reactions are vanishingly rare.
• Children: The vaccine is suitable for children less than 1 year old, however, we only vaccinate children aged 12 years and older.