Tetanus is a contagious, acute, often fatal disease that is caused by a toxin produced by a bacterium. It can occur when the tetanus bacteria gets into contaminated wounds.
The bacteria that causes tetanus lives in soil and the intestines of animals and humans. Tetanus is not contagious from person to person. It is the only vaccine-preventable disease that is infectious but not contagious.
Symptoms can include painful muscle spasms and stiffness.
The muscle stiffness usually involves the jaw (lockjaw) and neck and then becomes generalized.
Tetanus can be prevented by use of DTaP, Tdap and Td vaccines. The DTaP vaccine is given as a 5-dose series (2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years). Tdap vaccine is licensed for older children and adults and one dose is routinely recommended at age 11-12 years of age.
Older teens and adults who have never received the Tdap vaccine should receive one
Tdap dose. Pregnant women should receive one Tdap dose each time that they are
pregnant. Td should be given every 10 years after receipt of Tdap.