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What type of disease is tetanus?

Updated on May 17, 2010

This is a global health problem that affects many people annually. Muscle spasms in the mouth area (jaw) are one of the later symptoms of tetanus. Earlier signs are a general stiffness in other parts of your body, and having trouble swallowing. Pay attention to them! Severe cases result in death, and there's other forms of the disease that causes spasms in other areas.

Many countries give people painful tetanus immunization shots, but these also require boosters every few years. This type of disease is common in many parts of the developing world (Africa and Asia are some of the worst). It's more likely to appear in hot climates with the ground full of icky creatures... like if you were using manure as fertilizer on a farm. There are over a million cases of tetanus annually, and more than 30% of them result in death.

With that many deaths, it also means many famous people have died of an infection. It's usually caused by a puncture wound... like you could get tetanus by stepping on a nail. That's a very common cause of tetanus disease. Be very careful to get your booster shots if you're visiting somewhere that it's common. This is especially true if you'll be doing construction work, at a farm, in a swamp, or doing grunt work in the agricultural profession. And most importantly, if you'd like to avoid getting tetanus, stay away from anywhere with exposed nails, especially if they're rusty! Those could kill you!

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