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Tetanus is a medical condition that affects the nervous system and is characterised by a prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle fibres. It is caused by a bacterium called clostridium tetani and can commonly be found in soil, dust and manure. Tetanus has 2 main symptoms, muscle spasms and muscular rigidity. The stiffness will usually first appear on the face, starting with the muscles in the jaw that you use to chew. This virus will make it extremely difficult to open your mouth; also know as ‘lockjaw’.

The following are also symptoms associated with this type of infection:

  • High temperature of 38C and above
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure

The incubation period for a tetanus infection is 4 to 21 days; it must be treated quickly as it can be fatal. Death can be caused by:

  • Blood poisoning
  • Suffocation
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney failure


Tetanus immunoglobulin is a medication that contains antibodies that kill the tetanus bacteria. It is given as an intravenous injection and provides immediate, short-term protection against tetanus. Antibiotics, such as penicillin and metronidazole, can be used to treat tetanus infections. They work by preventing the Clostridium tetani bacterium from multiplying. In cases where a person is allergic to penicillin or metronidazole, tetracycline may be used as an alternative antibiotic.

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This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. Please read our medical disclaimer.