Tetanus is a bacterial infection caused by bacterium Clostridium tetani that is most commonly found in soil/animal feces. It is mostly associated with wounds contaminated with Clostridium bacterial spores. This bacterium releases a powerful neurotoxin tetanospasmin that affects the motor nerves leading to muscle spasm. The most commonly affected muscle is the jaw muscle, hence it is also known as lockjaw. It can; however, affect other parts of the body too.
It is a medical emergency and without immediate treatment it can prove fatal in about 13.2% cases as per CDC data. Tetanus is more common in developing countries than in developed countries due to greater medical awareness.
Can You Get Tetanus From A Rusty Razor?
Clostridium tetani is the primary cause of tetanus, which is a gram positive, rod shaped bacterium found worldwide in the soil as a dormant spore form. C. tetani is an anaerobic bacterium. It stays dormant in the spore form when found in dust, soil and animal waste and becomes active when it comes in contact with a host, such as humans. The bacteria usually enter the human body when an open wound, laceration, abrasion or breach in the skin surface comes in contact with the contaminated article/surface. Other injuries that can lead to tetanus are surgery, crush wound, frostbite, burns, IV drug users, abscesses and childbirth. Wound with necrotic tissue (such as in crush injuries or burns) or foreign body/debris in the wound is at a higher risk of developing tetanus.
All the above injuries that are exposed to dust, soil or animal excreta have a greater chance of developing tetanus. In addition, deep penetrating wounds such as stepping on a rusty or dirty nail can also lead to tetanus. However, it is highly unlikely to get tetanus from a rusty razor. Since, rust is not the cause of tetanus, but C. tetani bacterium. Rusty nails are usually found outside in dirt, so there is a greater chance of their being contaminated by C. tetani bacterium than a rusty razor, which is usually kept indoors. The chance of getting tetanus from a rusty razor is very meek, if it is kept hygienically.
There is a greater chance of developing tetanus in people who have not been immunized against it or those people who have not had subsequent booster doses of the vaccine.
Although, it is highly unlikely to get tetanus from a rusty razor, it is still advisable to avoid using a rusty razor if it is not kept hygienically, just for prevention. It is also advisable to get a tetanus shot when injured or suspect tetanus contamination as a precautionary measure, as precaution is always better than cure.
Symptoms of Tetanus
Tetanus mostly affects the nerves controlling muscles of the body due to the neurotoxin produced by the Clostridium bacterium. This neurotoxin leads to muscle spasm and rigidity. The incubation period ranges from 3 to 21 days. Tetanus can first affect the site of injury known as localized tetanus and from there it can spread to the rest of the body known as generalized tetanus. Generalized tetanus symptoms include muscle cramps, irritability, restlessness, sore muscles, weakness, perspiration, fever, palpitations, high blood pressure and difficulty swallowing.
The most common muscles affected are the facial muscles leading to trismus or lockjaw. Risus sardonicus is the characteristic feature resulting from the spasm of facial musculature. If the condition is not treated then the muscle spasm progresses and causes arching of the back muscle leading to opisthotonus. These muscle spasms can be so severe that they may even lead to dislocation or fracture of the affected bones. Severe cases may lead to spasm of the vocal cords and tracheal muscles responsible for breathing, which may eventually lead to death.
Tetanus can also affect neonates (children below the age of 28 days) that may lead to irritability, poor sucking ability and difficulty swallowing in the newborns.
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