Tetanus is one of the most commonly talked-about diseases. If we do not know about the implications of the disease, it is at least safe to say that generally, we all have heard of it. Why, during our childhood itself, we’re vaccinated to be protected from tetanus.
Tetanus is, in fact, a disease caused by a bacterium going by the name of Clostridium tetani. The bacteria produce a potent toxin, known as tetanospasmin. This is what is behind the negative impacts involved in the disease, whereby muscles and nerves of the body are seriously affected. The bacteria is ubiquitous, and mostly found in soil, dust and manure.
How does Tetanus infection occur?
One becomes infected by the bacteria upon sustaining an acute injury, like a puncture wound. The most common form of the disease, generalized tetanus, involves tetanic muscular contractions and hyperreflexia. Its other form, localised tetanus, as indicated by its name, is milder as opposed to its counterpart. Only some muscles of the body are affected, mainly those nearer to the wound. However, it may develop into its more dangerous form with time.
Tetanus is not contagious. It is spread through wounds. Other means of transmission have also been documented:
- Insect bites
- Dental infections
- Intravenous drug use
Symptoms of Tetanus
- Muscle stiffness, specially at the jaw and neck.
- With time, this progresses to other body parts as well.
- Severe breathing difficulties and heart abnormalities that may lead to death
- Trouble swallowing
With the development of a vaccine to fight against this disease, it has now become more or less rare. Those who are most at risk are those working with animal manure and who have inadequate immunisation. Generally, older people working as agricultural workers are the ones contracting the disease.
As treatment, vaccines containing tetanus toxoid are used. Tentanus immune globulin (TIG) or antitoxin is also used to cure patients from tetanus. The determining agents as to whether the cure will work or not are the nature of the wound as well as immunization of the person. For instance, severe wounds may necessitate both TIG and vaccines.
The disease is characterized by spasms and so, having recourse to therapy to control the muscular contractions also helps.
Also, even after having been infected by the bacteria once, one does not necessarily develop immunity; hence, second attacks can occur.