Tetanus is a non contagious bacterial infection caused by clostridium tetani a bacterium found in contaminated objects, soil and animal faeces. Tetanus occurs when this bacterium finds its way into the human body through wounds, burns, deep cuts by contaminated objects. When this bacterium enters the body, it multiplies because of its adaptive ability to survive and thrive in wounds which has no or low oxygen supply. This bacterium becomes a threat by producing toxins which spread throughout the body system affecting muscular functions as well as the nervous system. Tetanus in severe cases or when left untreated could result in death, according to statistics, of the 209,000 diagnosed cases of tetanus recorded globally in 2015, 56,700 deaths were recorded.
Symptoms Of Tetanus
The symptoms of tetanus might not be evident immediately after the clostridium tetani infection, it takes days and in some cases, longer period to show; ranging from few weeks to months depending on the patient’s level of immunity. However, irrespective of the bacterium’s incubation period in wounds, tetanus generally present itself with the following symptoms:
i. Increased blood pressure
iii. Recurring episodes of muscular spasm, usually around the jaw region.
iv. Difficulty swallowing
v. General stiffness of muscles
Even with the presence of the above mentioned symptoms, it is advised to seek proper medical diagnosis for individuals who recently sustained a severe burn, puncture wound or deep dirty cuts that might predispose the individual to tetanus infection.
Effects Of Tetanus
The following are the range of effects a patient could experience when tetanus infection is denied medical attention.
1. Death: Extreme cases of the infection left untreated could result to death. Muscle spasms are continuous and uncontrollable, when this happens the patient will often have difficulty breathing due to excessive contraction of the muscles which in turn obstructs the air way. At this stage, intensive care and machines for adequate oxygen supply become necessary, when oxygen is not supplied, death may occur.
2. Pulmonary failure: This happens when a blood vessel in the lung is obstructed by blood clot courtesy of the episodes of spasms which affects the free flow of blood around the body. This obstruction leads to breathing difficulties.
3. Laryngospasm: Laryngospasm is an uncontrolled seizure of the larynx which is the organ responsible for sound production, protecting the lungs from the entry of foreign objects and breathe control. This seizure happens as a result of pressure mounted on the muscles around the larynx. When this seizures continue without medical attention, suffocation sets in.
Prevention And Treatment
Tetanus can be prevented in the following ways.
1. Vaccination: Tetanus can be prevented through vaccination; tetanus toxoid vaccine, this helps the body build immunity prior to tetanus infection. Medical personnel advise that tetanus toxoid be taken every ten years. Vaccines cannot only be taken before infection but also administered to individuals who sustain wounds or burns that might predispose him/her to tetanus infection. However, administering tetanus immune globulin after injury only helps fight against the growth of clostridium tetani at the time of the injury, the efficiency of this vaccine does not extend for a long period, hence, adequate medical attention is advised.
2. Keeping wounds clean : Another important way of preventing tetanus infection is by avoiding wounds / injury contact with contaminated objects that could cause clostridium tetani infection. Keeping wounds clean and dry makes it difficult for clostridium tetani to thrive and avoiding animal farms when wounds or burns are sustained would lower the risk of infection as this bacterium causing tetanus are mostly found in animals faeces.
1. Tetanus can be treated by administering tetanus immune globulin which is an anti body that fights against bacterial infection.
2. Administering Diazepam : Diazepam is a muscle relaxant which can be administered on patients to help subside the rate of muscle spasms or contractions.
3. Surgery: This may be required in severe cases when spasms have caused damage to the larynx, tracheotomy would be required to normalize the patient’s breathing difficulty by inserting breathing tubes.
4. Antibiotics: Antibiotics are drugs that slow down or stop the growth of bacteria, antibiotics like amoxicillin and penicillin can be administered to discourage bacterial growth in puncture wounds.
5. Sedatives: Sedatives are like tranquilizers that induce calmness by reducing excitement and producing relaxing effects, administering sedatives during tetanus infection helps keep the muscles inactive thus reducing muscle spasms.
6. Administering magnesium phosphate: Magnesium works well in controlling muscular activities, and helping the muscles relax, magnesium can also be gotten from fruits and vegetables.
Conclusively, tetanus commonly known as lockjaw is a serious but often ignored infection which interferes with the human immune functions. Hence, it is therefore important to stay away from risk factors that could cause tetanus, these factors include animal bites, rusty nails, etc.