Skip to main content
Close

Tetanus

​​baby with tetanus

Tetanus is a disease caused by a bacterial infection. Tetanus bacteria typically enter the body through a wound or cut. The bacteria make a toxin that causes severe muscle spasms. Tetanus infections are very rare in BC because of tetanus vaccines.

There were no cases of tetanus in BC between 2002 and 2006.  There were four cases reported in 2007.  One case was in a child who had minor injury outdoors and was unimmunized due to philosophical objections.  The other three cases were aged over 50 years. None of the adult cases had available records of immunization and all three of these cases were fatal.  There was one case of tetanus reported in BC in 2008, no cases in 2009, and 1 case reported in 2010.

There were no cases of tetanus reported in 2011. 

In adults who have completed a primary series in childhood, a booster dose of tetanus toxoid is recommended every 10 years to maintain protection against tetanus, which is ubiquitous in the environment.

Information for Health Professionals

Tetanus is a disease caused by a bacterial infection. Tetanus bacteria typically enter the body through a wound or cut. The bacteria make a toxin, or poison, that causes severe muscle spasms.

Tetanus is also called "lockjaw" because muscle spasms in your jaw make it hard to open your mouth. Tetanus can cause seizures and makes it hard to swallow or breathe.

Tetanus symptoms appear slowly and get worse over time. In most cases, symptoms of tetanus appear within 14 days of the exposure.

 

The bacteria that cause tetanus are usually found in dirt and soil. Tetanus bacteria typically enter the body through a wound or cut.

 

Tetanus can cause:

  • Problems with your blood pressure and heart rate
  • Severe and painful muscle spasms in your neck, arms, legs, and belly. If spasms continue and get worse, they can break bones, including the spine
  • As the toxin spreads, it can be deadly.
 

A doctor can usually diagnose tetanus after asking questions about your symptoms and past health and doing a physical examination. Your doctor will do tests to decide how to treat the symptoms of tetanus. 

 

You will need to stay in a hospital so you can get medicines and fluids to control muscle spasms and pain. You also may need treatment to help you breathe. Your doctor will fully clean any wound or cut to remove bacteria.  Treatment also includes:

  • Antibiotics to kill the bacteria.
  • Tetanus immune globulin (TIG). This is a protein that helps your body's immune system find and destroy toxin.

  • Medicines to decrease muscle spasms.
  • Tetanus vaccination to prevent tetanus in the future.
 

Proper vaccination  prevents tetanus


  • Beginning at age 2 months, children receive a series of tetanus shots along with other regularly scheduled shots.
  • In adults who have completed a primary series in childhood, a booster of tetanus toxoid is recommended every 10 years to maintain protection against tetanus, which is ubiquitous in the environment. This vaccine is combined with diphtheria vaccine, for which people also need boosting every 10 years.
  • If you have a dirty cut or wound, get a tetanus shot as soon as possible if 5 or more years have passed since your last tetanus shot.

SOURCE: Tetanus ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © BC Centre for Disease Control. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2017 Provincial Health Services Authority.