Thursday, April 2, 2009


Tetanus is a bacterial infection caused by the microbe Clostridium Tetani. Clostridium Tetani releases a neurotoxin called tetanospasmin which causes the scheletal muscle fibers in the human body to contract uncontrollably. The Tetanus bacteria is most often introduced to the body via a cut or puncture wound, but there are also cases of neonatal tetanus, caused by nonsterile removal of the umbilicus from a non-immune infant. In modernized countries, infants are typically born with temporary immunity to tetanus because mothers who are up to date on their tetanus vaccines will automatically pass their immunity to their offspring.

Everyone is familiar with the idea that if you step on a rusty nail, you should get a tetanus shot, but tetanus infections have little to do with rust. Rather, any puncture or cut from a non-sterile object (such as a dirty needle) or an animal bite or scratch could introduce tetanus if the bacteria is present. Rust might increase the likelihood that the bacteria is present on the object because it forms a rough surface to which the bacteria can easily stick.

Symptoms of Tetanus usually begin within 3-21 days. Like Rabies, the disease takes longer to manifest if the point of introduction is located far away from the Central Nervous System. The first symptoms of General Tetanus include tightness in the jaw (lockjaw) and facial spasms, which cause a characteristic grin called risus sardonicus. These symptoms progress into neck stiffness, difficulty swallowing and pectoral and calf rigidity. Victims also experience fevers, sweating, high blood pressure and rapid heart rate. People in the throws of full blown tetanus will have instense full-body spasms refered to as Opisthotonus, in which the body involuntarily forms an arch.

The most effective way to avoid Tetanus is through vaccination, and the first form of treatment for a suspected infection is prophylactic vaccination. However, once the disease is symptomatic, treatment consists of life preserving measures such as assisted breathing, intravenous valium and high calorie tube feeding.

Mortality from tetanus is currently 11%.

Because of it's limited mortality but horrible manifestations I give Tetanus a
4 on my "lethality scale" (1-10)
and a 6 on my "disturbing scale" (1-10)

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