Is Tetanus A Common Infection?

Tetanus is a serious infectious disease caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. Any individual can get infected by these bacteria through a cut or a deep wound or animal or insect bites. It usually affects the nervous system leading to contractions of muscles of the body. It is also known as lockjaw as it leads to contractions of muscles of the jaw that spreads to other muscles of the body. This infection is not contagious and does not spread from person to person. It can be life-threatening in some cases and require immediate medical intervention.

Is Tetanus A Common Infection?

Is Tetanus A Common Infection?

Tetanus is a common infection, but its incidences are dropped to a great extent due to a wide use of tetanus vaccination. Its booster shots are given in every 10 years. The incidence of tetanus is highest in Uganda and India according to WHO that accounts for 40% of the world’s cases of tetanus.

Tetanus is a bacterial infection that affects the nervous system. Anyone can catch the infection through the spores of the bacterium present in the soil. The spores release neurotoxins in the dead tissues like dirty wounds or umbilicus after non-sterile delivery. These bacteria usually grow in the wounds which are punctured by dirty nails, tools, knives, and animal or insect bites. Newborn infants are at highest risk of contracting the infection if their umbilical cord is cut through dirty razor, knives or other instruments or dirty hands of delivering person.

Tetanus is common mainly in rural areas where proper hygiene or sterility of delivering instruments like the razor is not maintained during the deliveries of babies at home. According to WHO, 200000 babies are killed due to neonatal tetanus.

Tetanus is common in hot and damp climates with rich soil, especially in densely populated areas.

What Are It’s Symptoms?

The incubation period of the bacteria in between the exposure to the causative bacteria and the appearance of the symptoms is 3 to 21 days. In most cases, the symptoms are felt within 14 days after initial infection. If the infections happen faster after the exposure, then resulting symptoms appear quickly and severely to leading life-threatening consequences with poor prognosis.

Tetanus infection mainly involves nerves that supply the muscles. This leads to contraction of the muscles resulting in the symptoms like

  • High blood pressure
  • Spasms and stiffness in the muscles of jaw, neck, chest, back, and abdomen.
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Bloody stools
  • Sore throat
  • Increase in heart rate

Newborn babies develop tetanus after the birth in 3 to 28 days if exposed to the tetani bacteria. Their muscles become stiff and they stop feeding. Severe muscle spasms and contraction may occur that is followed by death.


Severe cases of tetanus cause severe muscles and convulsions. This results in fractures of the spine. Heartbeat becomes abnormal and comma can occur. Pneumonia or other infections can develop. These events can lead to the death. Very young children, neonates and old people are at highest risk to develop such complications and die.


Immunization is the best way to prevent tetanus. DTP and DT vaccines are given to young children and infants and Td to adults to prevent tetanus. In many countries, tetanus is given in a combination of other vaccines like diphtheria, pertussis, vitamin, and Hemophilus influenza type b.

Neonates are immunized by immunizing the pregnant mother (antibodies are transferred to the fetus through the placenta) or after pregnancy with tetanus toxoid. This helps to prevent tetanus in both the mother and the baby.


Tetanus is a serious infection that can impact the nervous system and can cause muscular contractions in the body. Its incidences are more common in neonates who are delivered through dirty instruments or dirty hands of the delivering person. It is more common in rural areas where hygiene is not maintained during delivery of babies.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 12, 2024

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