ABC Guide to Travel Health - Vaccines, Vaccinations

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Tetanus is a potentially fatal disease that is caused when spores of the bacterium, Clostridium tetani, get into the body, through a skin wound. Bacterial spores are most commonly found in manured soil. As the bacteria multiply in the wound, a toxin (poison) is produced that attacks nerves. This causes muscle rigidity and severe muscle spasms, first felt in the neck and jaw muscles (lockjaw). The effects spread, causing breathing difficulties, painful convulsions, abnormal heart rhythms and even death.7,48

The spores of the bacteria enter the body through skin wounds.

Geographical distribution48
Dirty wounds can become infected with the tetanus spores anywhere in the world.

Risk to travellers48
Every traveller should be fully protected against tetanus. Almost any form of injury, from a simple laceration to a motor-vehicle accident, can expose the individual to the spores.

Precautions and prevention7

Vaccination. All travellers should be up-to-date with their tetanus vaccinations, which are part of the national schedule in Australia . A traveller should receive a booster dose if more than 10 years have elapsed since the last dose, especially if they are uncertain of their status. Routine 10-yearly booster doses in adults, who have previously received 5 doses of a tetanus-containing vaccine, have not been recommended in Australia since 20007.

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