General Pediatrics at Taikoo and Quarry Bay | DYM health care

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Tetanus

Tetanus is a lethal disease caused by tetanus bacteria, Clostridium tetani. The bacteria produce toxins that attack the nervous system, leading to painful muscle spasm, particularly jaw and neck muscles. This is why tetanus is also known as “lockjaw”. In severe cases, tetanus can affect muscles that help to breathe and the patient can die very quickly.
Thanks to tetanus vaccines, cases of tetanus decreased drastically but it still remains a threat to those who are not up to date on their vaccinations. Tetanus is more common in developing countries.
There is not cure for tetanus. Treatment focuses on managing complications until the effects of the tetanus toxin resolves. Recovery may take months. About 10% of cases prove fatal.

Mode of transmission

The tetanus bacteria are found in soil, saliva, dust and manure. They get into the body through a break in the skin, such as a cut, puncture or tiny wound. Infection can also occur after burn or animal bite. Tetanus is acquired through contact with the environment. It is not transmitted from person to person.

Incubation period

The incubation period is 3 – 21 days, commonly about 7 to 10 days.

Management

Affected persons should be hospitalized for treatment including tetanus immunoglobulin (TIG), antibiotics and thorough wound treatment. In severe cases, muscle relaxants may be used to control spasms. Tracheostomy and mechanical ventilation to assist breathing may be required. Active immunization should be started concurrently with therapy if there is incomplete, uncertain or no history of immunization.

Prevention

1.Proper wound management

Wound should be cleaned immediately and covered properly with waterproof adhesive dressings. Any dead tissue should be removed. If necessary, medical treatment should be sought.

2. Vaccination

Depending on the type of wound and immunization history of the person, he/she may need to receive tetanus toxoid or immunoglobulin to prevent tetanus.

Immunization with tetanus toxoid containing vaccines protects against tetanus. The tetanus toxoid can be administered alone or as a combined vaccine, e.g. diphtheria & tetanus vaccine (DT), diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis & inactivated poliovirus vaccine (DTaP-IPV) (Please refer to the Hong Kong Childhood Immunization Program). A complete series of tetanus toxoid according to the immunization schedule gives effective protection for at least 10 years. A booster vaccine can be administered thereafter.