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This fact sheet answers frequently asked questions about Tetanus.

Tetanus, sometimes referred to as “lockjaw,” is a disease caused by toxin producing bacteria. The toxin attacks the nervous system, resulting in muscle spasms.

The basics

How is tetanus spread?

The bacteria that causes tetanus, Clostridium tetani lives in soil, manure and dust. The bacteria can enter the body through a puncture wound, a cut in the skin, a severe burn, or an animal bite. Tetanus cannot spread from person-to-person. People get tetanus from the environment and not from other people.

Who gets tetanus?

Tetanus cases in the United States are very rare. Anyone without immunity can get tetanus. In the United States, tetanus vaccination is part of routine childhood immunizations.


What are the symptoms of tetanus?

Symptoms of tetanus may include headache, fever, crankiness, and spasms of different muscles. These muscle contractions can occur in the neck, arms, legs, jaw and stomach, and can be intense and painful. They happen often and can last for several minutes.


Can you prevent tetanus?

Yes, tetanus is a preventable disease. All infants and children should get tetanus vaccine, in combination with diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccines called DTaP vaccine. Doses of vaccine are recommended at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 11-18 years of age. After initial vaccination, you should get a booster dose of Td vaccine every 10 years. People who have an injury such as a cut or puncture wound may need an additional Td booster.


What is the treatment for tetanus?

You will need supportive care for tetanus treatment. Additionally there is specific treatment that uses tetanus immune globulin, antibiotics, wound management, and sedation. You can also get tetanus diphtheria vaccine (Td).

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