Tetanus is one of the most serious painful infectious diseases caused by bacteria getting into wounds. It makes jaw muscles go stiff and also characterized by prolonged spasms. As tetanus is not contagious, it is not transmitted from one person to another. Yet, it occurs all over the world.
Very often the disease results in fatal outcome. Around 11% reported cases have caused death these days. The studies reveal that the highest mortality rate is among people who have not been vaccinated and elderly people over 60 years old. Though it may well be so that it can affect an individual at any age.
Besides age there are other factors which can expose to risk of being infected with tetanus. For example, occupation, climate, use of drugs. But still the main source of infection is a wound made in most cases by a nail. Here, it is important to highlight that it is not necessary that the nail should be rusty as many people think. In fact, it is bacteria that become agents of infection as soon as they get into a suitable environment which is favorable for their growth.
Normally, it takes from 3 days to 15 weeks for the first symptoms to become visible. The longer incubation period, the less complicated the disease will be. The first sign is considered to be trismus, also called lockjaw. Producing the so-called poison (or toxin) inside the body, tetanus causes muscle spasms in the neck, arms, legs as well as strong and painful muscles contractions. Other symptoms include a headache, elevated blood pressure, fever, excessive sweating.
The treatment may last several weeks. It includes surgical removal of damaged tissue from the wound, injection of tetanus antitoxin and other antibiotics, muscles relaxers, sedatives.
The most common prevention of this disease is vaccination and immunization. The majority of people receive their first vaccine as children in the form of a combined diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine or DTP. As for adults, a booster vaccine is recommended, which should be received every five or ten years.
Although vaccination dramatically enhances resistance to this disease, there is no 100% guarantee. Moreover, once recovered from tetanus, a person does not acquire immunity to it. Being an international health problem, scientists are eager to put an end to it. That's why numerous researches are being conducted and new methods of prevention and treatment are being looked for nowadays. Some experiments are carried out on animals. One of such studies show, that the toxin can cause tetanus even in vaccinated animals. According to another recent research by the Cochrane Collaboration, combined DTP-HBV-Hib vaccine works as well and effectively as separate vaccines.
Though the majority of scientists and doctors coincide in their opinion that vaccination against tetanus is a must, there still exist opposing points of views. However, they are not so widely spread. What is more, but for the vaccine and the breakthrough in medicine there would have been much more fatal cases of this disease.