The disease, which used to kill about 40 to 50 Canadians a year in the 1920s and 30s, is now only rarely reported. But doctors who have seen what tetanus does do not forget it.
The bacteria multiply and start producing toxins that force muscles into painful contractions. One of the first places where those contractions take hold is in the muscles of the jaw -- that’s where tetanus’ other name, lockjaw, comes from. Between 10 and 20% of tetanus cases die.
The disease is caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani, which are found in soil all over the world. Because the bacteria are in soil, they are also in dust, so the spores can settle on objects like the thorns of a bush or a fence. Typical tetanus stories involve gardening, which is why health care providers aggressively promote tetanus vaccination in the spring and summer.
Tetanus is among the immunizations given in childhood. It’s bundled in vaccines that protect against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and polio. Any child who has had all of his or her shots will be protected against tetanus.
Adults need a tetanus booster shot every 10 years to maintain the needed level of protective antibodies. For adults, the vaccine comes in a serum that also protects against diphtheria and pertussis.
Think about tetanus this time of year, especially if you’re a gardener. And make sure your booster is up-to-date!
The Temagami Medical Centre and Family Health Team ...
committed to keeping you as healthy as possible!