Bacterial Infection: Tetanus

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Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is a rare but serious infection caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. The C. tetani bacterium is mostly found in the environment, present in soil contaminated with manure but can also be found in animal and human feces, animal saliva and even dust. The bacteria enter the body through a deep wound or any break in the skin, usually upon a cut or puncture. The bacteria will then multiply inside the body and begin to produce and release a toxin (poison). It is this toxin that results to the characteristic muscle spasms found in tetanus infections. This infection cannot be transmitted from one person to another.

Always seek medical attention if one is suspected of suffering from a tetanus infection, especially if a foreign object remains lodged in the skin. There is an increased risk of infection if the source of the wound is a dirty object, it can from an animal bite or it was a previous wound that had signs of infection. Know how to apply first aid on different kinds of wounds by enrolling in First Aid Courses.

There is an estimated one million new cases of tetanus each year worldwide. Within a five year time span, the World Health Organization reports an estimated 61,000 deaths from tetanus as of 2011. Fatality rate is highest among infants and the elderly.  Fortunately, tetanus can be prevented in individuals. There are now vaccines that can help fight this infection. It is recommended especially to infants and children, with booster shots every ten years.

Causes of Tetanus

Tetanus is usually caused by a deep cut our wound from a source infected by the bacteria. The following listed below are also sources of tetanus in individuals:

  • Insect bites
  • Dental infections
  • Surgical procedures

Signs and Symptoms of Tetanus

Initial signs and symptoms usually manifest eight days after infection, although the incubation period may be as short as three days or as long as three weeks. The first sign that a person may be suffering from tetanus is the mild spasms of the jaw, hence the name lockjaw. The other signs and symptoms of tetanus include:

  • Painful stiffness of the muscles of the body
  • Jaw cramps
  • Stiffness of the neck
  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Abrupt and involuntary tightening of the muscles, often the stomach
  • Seizures, specifically characterized by jerking movements and staring
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate)

Death may occur from a tetanus infection, particularly from abnormalities in the heart or severe trouble breathing.

First Aid Management for Tetanus

Administer first aid on all wounds to try and prevent any kind of infection from developing, especially serious ones, such as tetanus. The following can be done:

Apply direct pressure on a bleeding wound to try and prevent tetanus
Apply direct pressure on a bleeding wound to try and prevent tetanus
  • Control the bleeding by applying direct pressure on the wound.
  • When the wound has stopped bleeding, thoroughly wash the wound with running water and mild soap.
  • If a saline solution is available, apply this as well.
  • Apply a thin layer of antibiotic cream or ointment.
  • Cover the wound using a sterile dressing. Change this dressing at least once a day.
  • Do not cover the wound if it has not yet been cleaned to avoid trapping the bacteria in the wound.

Tetanus is an infection caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. It causes muscles spasms, painful muscle spasms and seizures.

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