Tetanus is a disease of bacterial origin and caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. This is one of the most devastating diseases related to bacteria. The symptoms are severe and there is a spasm in the body so strong that it may break the spine or the bones. The toxin released by this bacterium, in many cases, if not treated, proves fatal. The other symptoms are associated with the spasm such as suffocation or difficulty breathing. The important thing for this bacterium is that it is ubiquitous i.e. it is present all over the world and is not geography specific. Any exposure of the wound to this bacterium may initiate the characteristic symptoms. The incubation period may be 3-21 days. Further, this is also a non-communicable disease as this will not pass from person to person. The fatality rate is high and even higher in neonatal tetanus. Further, the vaccines are designed to check the growth of this bacterium if anytime it reaches in to the body.
Will The Tetanus Injection Work If Injected Within 48 Hours After The Injury?
The tetanus toxoid injection should be administered in the body as soon as possible. However, the administration of the injection depends upon the variety of factors. Following are the factors influencing the tetanus injection administration:
- Past Immunization: The tetanus toxoid is not required if the last immunization was done not more than 5 years ago in the form of booster dose.
- Status of the Wound: Although not to take chances and rush for immunization as soon as you got the wound, the status of the wound also plays a major role in defining what type of immunization you require. If the wound is clean and minor, then only the tetanus toxoid is needed. However, if the wound is dirty and the major part is exposed, then along with the tetanus toxoid, tetanus immunoglobulin is also administered to provide immediate immunity.
As the incubation period clostridium tetani is 3-21 days, it is important to take a shot of immunization within 48 hours so as to provide the tetanus toxoid to work against clostridium, in case patient gets infected.
Cause of Tetanus
The spasm and occurrence of rigidity in the muscles are caused by a toxin which is release by Clostridium tetani. This toxin is known as tetanospasmin. The toxins are produced by the bacterium in anerobic conditions. These toxins are distributed in the body with the help of blood and lymph. This toxin affects the nervous system of the body and is responsible for spasm and muscular rigidity. The tetanus toxin reaches in to the nerve terminals that activate voluntary muscles. It further reaches to spinal cord or brain stem. The nervous system generally works by the release of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that take the information to and from the nerve cells. Once the process of this information is interrupted, the whole system degrades and there would be no flow of information. The toxins secreted by the Clostridium tetani exactly do this to the nervous system. The toxin targets a section of the nerve that regulates the release of neurotransmitters and interferes with the release of neurotransmitters. In the absence of any information, there is a spasm in the muscle and the body becomes rigid. The treatment for this can be prophylaxis, exposure prophylaxis and symptomatic treatment. The drugs used are tetanus toxoid vaccine; Diazepam, metronidazole and sometimes surgical intervention may be required.
Although preventable with the current immunization techniques, the people failed to adhere to guidelines and get contracted to this scary tetanus disease with horrible symptoms and high mortality rate. However, as soon as the person gets injury, he should, as soon as possible, go to the physician and get administered a tetanus toxoid, most probably within 48 hours of the injury. This will help in the immediate protection from the bacteria as well will also protect in future, at least for few years.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tetanus (Lockjaw) https://www.cdc.gov/tetanus/index.html
- World Health Organization (WHO). Tetanus https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tetanus