Tetanus is a frightening disease that has plagued manic since ancient times. Many famous people met their untimely demise from this disturbing disease. Tetanus is also refereed to as lockjaw and is characterized by prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle fibers. Those who die from tetanus usually contract it after minor injuries such as stepping on a nail or getting bit by a dog.
This disease is commonly associated with wounds from metal objects. Once it is contracted, it has an incubation period of about 8 days but in some cases it may take up to several months for signs to show.
The Types of Tetanus
There are four main types of tetanus that can affect humans. These types are:
o Generalized tetanus-this is the most common type of tetanus and the type that most people typically think of when tetanus is mentioned. About 80 percent of all tetanus cases fall into this category. The first signs of this form of the disease is:
– Facial spasms
– Stiffness of the neck
– Difficulty in swallowing
– Rigidity of pectoral and calf muscles
– Elevated temperature
– Elevated blood pressure
– Episodic rapid heart rate
o Neonatal tetanus-this type of tetanus is particularly heartbreaking as it affects babies almost as soon as they enter the world. Babies at risk are those that are born to mothers that have never been vaccinated against the disease. It can occur despite infections of unhealed umbilical stumps. This mostly occurs in developing countries where vaccinations are not readily available and it is astonishingly responsible for about 14 percent of all neonatal deaths.
o Local tetanus-this form of the disease is fairly rare and occurs in the same anatomic area as where the injury occurred. The disease does not spread to other parts of the body.
o Cephalic tetanus-this is another rare form of the disease which occasionally occurs with ear infections or following injuries to the head.
Causes of Tetanus
In unvaccinated individuals, tetanus can be caused as a result of another person's negligence such as in not cleaning up after construction or leaving out other objects which could cause injury and may contain the bacteria. Another common cause of tetanus is dog bites.
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