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Tetanus is a serious bacterial infection caused by Clostridium tetani, a type of bacteria that is found in soil, dust, and animal feces. It is also known as lockjaw due to the common symptom of muscle spasms in the jaw. Tetanus can be fatal if left untreated, but it is preventable with a vaccine.

Tetanus is spread through contact with bacteria, usually through a wound or cut in the skin. The bacteria can enter the body through a break in the skin, such as a puncture wound, cut, or scrape. It can also enter through a burn or an animal bite. The bacteria then produce a toxin that affects the nervous system, leading to muscle spasms and other symptoms.

The most common symptom of tetanus is muscle spasms in the jaw, making it difficult to open the mouth. Other symptoms include stiffness in the neck and abdomen, difficulty swallowing, fever, sweating, and rapid heart rate. In severe cases, the muscle spasms can become so severe that they can cause fractures and even death.

Tetanus can be prevented with a vaccine. The tetanus vaccine is usually given as part of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTaP) vaccine, which is recommended for all children. Adults should also get a booster shot every ten years.

If you think you may have tetanus, seek medical attention immediately. Treatment typically involves antibiotics to kill the bacteria and a tetanus toxoid vaccine to prevent further infection. In severe cases, supportive care, such as breathing support and muscle relaxants, may be needed.

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  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Tetanus. Retrieved from
  • Mayo Clinic. (2020). Tetanus. Retrieved from