Tetanus is a serious, non-contagious illness which can be fatal without a preventative vaccine or medical attention. In England there were only four recorded cases from January to December 2016. This number of cases is low due to the NHS child vaccination programme.
Tetanus is caused by a toxin that is produced by a bacteria called “Clostridium tetani” which is naturally found in the ground. There is a risk of contamination if an injury or cut comes in contact with this toxin.
Tetanus: what are the symptoms and treatment?
This illness can cause some symptoms that you should look out for:
- Contractions and intense muscular spasms around the jaw, neck muscles and the back,
- Muscular hypertension in the back,
- Difficulty swallowing,
- Excessive sweating,
- Hypertension, Problems with your cardio rhythm,
- Shortness of breath, breathing difficulties even asphyxia (risk of death).
If you have even the slightest doubt about one of these symptoms, especially in breathing difficulty cases, you should contact your doctor immediately. Risk of death by asphyxia is very significant so these symptoms should not be taken lightly.
Antibiotics are generally prescribed by the doctors as an anti-toxine however resuscitation care may also be required.
Any cases of tetanus in Britain must be officially declared.
Why is the tetanus vaccine important?
No one is naturally immune to tetanus, even if they have already contracted the illness. The vaccination protects the person from the illness for about 20 years. This is why it is important to check whether you need a booster vaccine to ensure that you are still protected against the bacteria.
Why is the tetanus vaccine obligatory?
The tetanus vaccination is obligatory for infants under the age of two (two doses the first year and a second 11 months later.) Several recalls in childhood, during your teenage years and during adulthood are strongly recommended. For people over the age of 65, it is recommended to get a booster jab every 10 years.
The vaccination against tetanus and a booster jab every 10 years is obligatory for:
- emergency services
- prison services
- health and social care workers in charge of children and elderly
- funeral services
- Anyone who, works in a prevention or care facility, works in a profession which exposes them to contamination risks (gardening, green spaces …)
If you go on holiday you should also check that you are up-to-date with your latest tetanus jab before going on holiday.