Tetanus infection is a fairly common preventable disease among newborn babies in developing countries though it affects all age groups.
The disease is found mostly in sub – Saharan Africa, Asia (India, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc.) but it is worldwide. It is characterized by generalized muscles contractions resulting in ability of the person to even open the mouth. The germ produces a chemical called tetanospasmin which causes muscles to contract; the death rate due the disease is high.
The germ that causes tetanus (either in the soft form or hardened form called spores) enters the human body through open wounds due to cuts, burns, infection (especially ear infections), operation, childbirth, abortion, cutting of umbilical cord, tooth extraction etc. Once inside the human body, the spores change to the soft type and begin to produce the chemical that causes the body to contract by affecting the nerves.
The disease DOES NOT spread from human being to human being.
1. Immunisation of infants
Immunisation against tetanus is best started in infancy. Given as DPT (diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus), it is started at about 6 weeks of life followed by two other doses at 4-6 weeks interval.
A first booster must be given at 18 months of age and another at about 6 years of age when the child is to enter primary school. Thereafter, a booster dose of tetanus vaccine is recommended every ten years.
This will protect the child against tetanus.
2. Immunisation of older children and adults
If not immunized earlier in life, immunization consists of two doses of tetanus toxoid injections at 4-8 weeks interval. This should be followed by a booster dose in a year after and thereafter every ten years. This gives complete protection.
The same applies to adults.
Therefore, you must ensure that you and members of your family are fully immunized as above if you fall into this category.
3. Aseptic Delivery of babies
Every pregnant woman must be delivered by a skilled attendant in hygienic environment with the umbilical cord hygienically cut. This ensures that both mother and child do not contract tetanus infection.
4. Active immunisation of pregnant women
Every pregnant woman must be immunized against tetanus during ante-natal; you must take at least two doses of tetanus toxoid if you have never been immunized. However if you have been immunized before, you only need to take one dose at a time directed by your doctor.
5. Care of wounds
If you have a wound, ensure you visit a clinic for proper treatment. Do not be careless with any injury no matter how small. If properly attended to, a wound is unlikely to be infected and tetanus infection could be avoided.
6. Immunisation after an injury
You must consult a doctor if you or any member of your family has an injury and you must inform the doctor of your immunization status against tetanus. This will determine whether you require immunization or not. Keep your record of immunization against tetanus and any other disease.
7. Know about the Tetanus infection
Be aware of the disease. The best preventive measure is to know about the disease; try to know what causes it, the mode of spread and how to avoid it as stated above.