Tetanus
Friday, August 22, 2008

A dog bite or stepping on a nail may seem like minor injuries but they could expose you to the toxin that causes tetanus, which can be fatal in some cases. Dr. Ed Hill tells us more about tetanus in todays 60 Second Housecall.

Tetanus is an infectious disease that attacks the nervous system and is caused by the toxin clostridium tetani. Tetanus spores are found in soil, animal excrement and house dust.

After one to three weeks in the bloodstream, tetanus can begin to short-circuit nerve signals and block the relaxation of muscles. This can result in spasms of the jaw or facial muscles, hence the term lockjaw.  This muscle spasm spreads to the hands, arms, legs and back. Once tetanus has spread, the mortality rate is approximately 40 percent. Fortunately, only about 50 cases of tetanus occur each year.

Tetanus is prevented by appropriate wound care and immunization. Children get tetanus immunization in the DPT shot.  Adults need tetanus immunization every 10 years.  Many recommend vaccinating adults on mid decade birthdays, for example at 45, 55, 65, and so forth.

Contact a doctor immediately if you are bitten by an animal or wounded by an object that might be contaminated with dirt, feces or dust.

For North Mississippi Medical Center, Im Dr. Ed Hill.