Tetanus

What is tetanus?

Tetanus is a disease caused by a bacteria that lives in dust, dirt and soil. 

How is tetanus spread?

Tetanus cannot be spread from person to person. A person becomes infected with tetanus when the tetanus bacteria enter the body through an opening in the skin such as a cut, scrape or animal bite.   

Watch a video on tetanus.

Video credit: Immunize Canada

What are the symptoms of tetanus?

Tetanus symptoms usually start within 14 days of the bacteria entering the body. The tetanus bacteria make a poison that causes painful muscle spasms (tightening of muscles). Tetanus is also called ‘lockjaw’ because the jaw muscle can become so tight that it locks shut. 

What are the risks of tetanus?

Tetanus symptoms get worse over time. The muscle spasms can spread all over the body and can be so severe they break bones including the spine. If the poison spreads to the breathing muscles (diaphragm) tetanus can cause death. About 1 in 5 people who get tetanus will die.  

How can I prevent getting tetanus?

The best way to not get tetanus is to get immunized. The tetanus vaccine is combined with other vaccines to give protection against several diseases with one shot. The tetanus vaccine is safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get the disease.

Who should get the tetanus vaccine?

The tetanus vaccine is publicly funded (free) in B.C. for babies and children as part of their routine immunizations at

  • 2, 4, 6, and 18 months
  • The Kindergarten Booster, starting at 4 years of age
  • Grade 9 students

Adults who were immunized against tetanus when they were a child should get a ‘booster’ every 10 years. 

Get immunized against tetanus by making an appointment with your doctor, pharmacist (for those 5 years and older) or Public Health.

To book an immunization appointment with Public Health:

Residents of Fraser East (Mission, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope), call 604-702-4906

Residents in any other area of Fraser Health, call 604-476-7087 

What should I do if I get tetanus?

If you have a serious cut or wound (opening to your skin) see a doctor or call your public health unit immediately to discuss treatment. This is especially important if the wound is dirty or you have never had a tetanus vaccine. 

Resources

For more information on tetanus and the tetanus vaccine, go to: 

I Need To...