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Tetanus – Causes and Symptoms

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Tetanus – Causes and Symptoms

Tetanus is a disease caused by a bacterial infection. The tetanus bacteria will produce toxins which cause severe muscle contractions. Tetanus can be very bad, but you can get an shot to prevent it. Tetanus also causes seizures and makes it difficult for you to swallow or breathe.

Most people are vaccinated to avoid tetanus, so the disease is almost rare. A person who have not been immunized or have not had a booster (additional immunization) in the last 10 years are more likely to get tetanus. These include people who have just moved to the United States from countries where tetanus injections are still rarely given.

Clostridium tetani are the bacteria that cause tetanus. These bacteria are commonly found in soil and dirt, most frequently in areas with animal waste such as farms. These bacteria usually enter the body through wounds or open body parts. They can also get into the body through dirty injections, such as when someone injects drugs.

Bacteria grow best when they are not around oxygen. A deeper and narrower wound will have less oxygen content around it, so tetanus is more likely to occur. For example, bacteria can develop in stab wounds from dirty nails. The dirtier the injury, the bigger the risk of receiving tetanus. However, tetanus can also grow in a clean injury. Tetanus is not infectious, so you can not get it from someone affected by tetanus.

The symptoms of tetanus appear slowly and worsen over time. The time required for symptoms to appear after injury ranges from a few days to several months. In most cases, tetanus symptoms appear within 14 days. The symptoms of tetanus often begin with headaches and difficulty opening your mouth (mouth convulsions). You may also have difficulty swallowing and/or stiff neck, stiff back, or shoulders.

When the poison spreads, it can be deadly, causing problems with blood pressure and heart rate, causing severe and painful muscle spasms in the neck, arms, legs and abdomen. If convulsions continue and worsen, spasms can break bones, including the spine.

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