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Tetanus is a very severe, potentially fatal, disease that still occurs in Australia.
Immunisaton can prevent it.
Tetanus occurs when a germ called Clostridium tetani enters the body through damaged skin and produces a poison called tetanus toxin. This toxin is one of the most potent known poisons.
The tetanus germ is present in soil and manure. You cannot catch tetanus from other people.
The tetanus germ likes to grow away from the air.
From about three days to three weeks after the tetanus germ gets into the body, muscles become very stiff and go into painful spasms. For weeks, spasms can rack the body, which look like fits. The person may stop breathing, their heart beat and blood pressure can become disturbed. Up to 10 per cent of people with tetanus in Australia will die, even with the best of intensive care treatment.
Fortunately immunisation against tetanus is very effective in preventing the disease.
The vaccine is called tetanus toxoid, and is available by itself, or in combination with other vaccines.
The vaccine is made by taking a small amount of the tetanus toxin and making it inactive. The body learns to recognise and attack this toxin, making antibodies to it. When the body meets the real tetanus toxin, these antibodies destroy it before any harm can be done.
Everybody needs an initial course of three doses of the vaccine, to teach the immune system to recognise the tetanus toxin.
Booster doses are then needed to help keep the body’s memory active. In Australia, children are vaccinated at:
Tetanus and diphtheria boosters are no longer recommended every 10 years provided the person has documented evidence that they have completed a full primary course of three injections and at least two booster doses, but a booster dose at 50 years is recommended.
If a person gets a wound that is considered more dangerous than usual, they may need another booster if they have not had one in the last five years.
Tetanus does not need to harm anyone in Australia anymore. Immunisation against tetanus is safe and effective. Make sure you and your family are protected.
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