Tetanus is an acute, sometimes fatal, disease of the central nervous system, caused by the toxin of the tetanus bacterium, which usually enters the body through an open wound. The tetanus bacterium live in soil and manure, but also can be found in the human intestine and other places.
Tetanus is not a contagious illness. It occurs in individuals who have had a skin or deep tissue wound or puncture. It is also seen in the umbilical stump of infants in underdeveloped countries. This occurs in places where immunization to tetanus is not widespread and women may not know proper care of the stump after the baby is born. After being exposed to tetanus, it may take between two days to two months to develop any symptoms. In infants, symptoms may take between five days to two weeks to develop.
The following are the most common symptoms of tetanus. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of tetanus may resemble other medical conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
Symptoms usually confirm the diagnosis of tetanus.
Specific treatment for tetanus will be determined by your child's physician based on:
Treatment for tetanus may include:
A DTaP vaccine that includes tetanus is routinely given in the US during childhood (the other two diseases included are diphtheria and pertussis). Booster immunization shots are needed every 10 years.