When was the last time you had a tetanus shot? It is a vaccine that must be administered every 10 years or so to protect people against a disease that is also caused lockjaw. Tetanus affects the nervous system by causing muscle spasms that frequently make it difficult for an individual to open their mouth. This leads to suffocation, dehydration, and sometimes life threatening conditions.
1. It’s Not the Bacteria
Unlike other infections, tetanus isn’t caused by the bacteria that are the invaders. It is because of the toxins that the tetanus-causing bacteria produce. The bacteria can be found virtually everywhere in the world today in the soil and dust. Despite it being everywhere, however, there are generally about 50 people every year in the US who are diagnosed with this disease.
2. You Can’t Get It
The benefit of the tetanus vaccine is that you can’t get the disease from it. Unlike some other vaccines that use weakened or live disease fragments to build immunities, this vaccine simply uses a milder version of the toxin created to initiate a response. Because these antibodies aren’t permanent, a new vaccine is required every decade or so to protect against toxin development.
3. It Isn’t Communicable
Tetanus isn’t something that you can catch from someone else, even if they have been diagnosed with the condition. Most people come into contact with tetanus when they have a cut or puncture wound and the bacteria are present on the item. It only takes a small cut for tetanus to begin colonizing and producing the toxin.
4. Good Survival Rates
There’s an 80-90% survival rate for those confirmed to have tetanus. Sometimes people may need to be in intensive care for several days with a ventilator because of the spasming of the breathing mechanism, but overall it is a very survivable disease compared to when it was first recognized as a problem.
Tetanus can only be prevented by vaccination. Even recovering from the disease may not result in a true lifetime immunity. That’s why one of the most important questions doctors can ask today is this: “Do you know when you had your last tetanus shot?”