Tetanus (Lock Jaw)

  • Disease caused by bacteria (tetanus bacillus), which live in dirt, dust, and animal or human feces (stool).

Signs and Symptoms

  • Tetanus first affects the muscles near the wound, and can also spread to other parts of the body. As it spreads, muscles may lock in place or go into spasms (get very tight). This can be very painful.
  • In most cases, the first muscles affected are in the jaw. You may not be able to swallow or open your mouth.
  • If the disease gets to the muscles that help you breathe, tetanus can be fatal.
  • Later symptoms also include fever and increased blood pressure.


  • The bacteria normally gets into the body through wounds that are contaminated with dirt, feces or saliva containing the bacteria
  • The bacteria can also get into the body through a puncture wound (i.e. nail or needle), burns, and crush injuries


  • Antibiotics can be used to treat tetanus


  • The disease may leave long-lasting problems with speech, memory, and thinking.


  • Tetanus can be prevented by vaccination
  • Make sure your immunization record is up to date. Tetanus vaccine is routinely given at 2, 4, 6, and 18 months, followed by a booster dose at 4-6 years. After that, a booster dose is recommended every 10 years through adulthood.
  • If you get a cut or a deep puncture wound, make sure to clean it thoroughly.
  • If you develop symptoms such as lockjaw or muscle spasms, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Tetanus must be reported to your local Medical Officer of Health under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.