Digging Deeper ? The Facts on Tetanus
Posted on: May 26, 08
Tetanus is an acute and often fatal disease caused by a neurotoxin (or poison) that blocks normal control of nerve reflexes in the spinal column. The first symptom is usually spasms of the jaw muscles ("lockjaw") followed by painful spasms of muscles in the face, neck, chest, abdomen, arms and legs. Tetanus germs exist as growing bacteria and spores; spores are found most frequently in soil, as well as in dust on the street and in homes. Tetanus spores typically enter the body through an open wound in the skin. Tetanus is not spread from person to person. It is a severe disease; even with treatment, the death rate is 10% to 20%.
Since tetanus spores occur everywhere in our environment, immunization is the only effective means of protection. Canadians should receive a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. Adults 60 years of age and older are at increased risk of tetanus infection as they may not have been immunized against the disease when they were younger, or they may have simply forgotten to keep their immunization up-to-date with a booster shot every 10 years. If you’re not up-to-date, ask your doctor, nurse, pharmacist or local public health clinic about a tetanus booster.
What is tetanus?
Tetanus is an acute and often fatal disease caused by a neurotoxin (or poison) made by bacteria that blocks normal control of nerve reflexes in the spinal column
Symptoms include spasms of the jaw muscles, commonly known as lockjaw, followed by painful spasms of muscles in the face, neck, chest, abdomen, arms and legs
Even with treatment, between 10 and 20 per cent of people who contract tetanus die
Since the introduction of routine immunization programs, only about 1-10 cases of tetanus are reported each year in Canada. In 2007, three adults in British Columbia died from tetanus
How do you get tetanus?
Tetanus bacteria are found naturally everywhere in our environment, particularly in soil, animal feces and dust
You can become infected with tetanus when the bacteria enter the body through a skin injury such as a puncture, cut or animal bite
Tetanus is often associated with rusty nails because metal objects tend to rust when left outdoors where they can pick up tetanus bacteria from their environment, and rust’s rough surface harbours the bacteria
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 31 per cent of injuries leading to tetanus infections occur in the yard, garden or farm, and 23 per cent happen at other outdoor locations1
Can tetanus be prevented?
Immunization is highly effective at preventing tetanus. In Canada, infants are immunized starting at 2 months of age. Booster doses are recommended every 10 years ensure long-term protection against tetanus
Tips to protect yourself from tetanus in the garden:
o Ensure that your immunization is up-to-date
o Wear gloves, protective clothing and footwear while gardening
o If you are injured, clean wounds thoroughly and immediately with soap and warm water
With Canadians gearing up for gardening season, please check your immunization record and make sure you are up-to-date! It is recommended that adults receive a tetanus booster every ten years.
For more information about tetanus immunization and other immunizations recommended for adults, see the Adult Immunization Guide on the CCIAP web site at www.immunize.ca, and speak to your doctor, nurse, pharmacist or local public health office about getting immunized against tetanus.
Ontarians are among the most likely to have received a tetanus shot, at
78 per cent, and are also among the most up-to-date, with only 24 per cent receiving their last tetanus shot more than 10 years ago
Ontarians are the most likely to feel that they are protected against tetanus, at 53 per cent
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