Tetanus Disease Icon Tetanus

Question Mark Disease Icon What is it and how is it spread?

Tetanus is a disease caused by a bacterium which is found in soil and some animal faeces. The infection occurs when bacteria are introduced into a wound, where they produce a harmful toxin (poison). Tetanus is a serious disease that needs intensive medical support.1

Who is at risk from Tetanus icon Who is at risk?

The tetanus bacterium occurs worldwide, although the disease is more common in less developed countries where vaccination rates may be lower.1

What are the symptoms of Tetanus? What are the symptoms?

Early symptoms of tetanus can include stiffness of the jaw (also known as lockjaw), muscle spasms and difficulty swallowing. The disease can then spread through the body to affect other muscles, including those involved in breathing, causing breathing difficulties.2 Other symptoms include a stiff neck, arching of the back and abnormal breathing.1

How can Tetanus be prevented Icon How can it be prevented?

Tetanus is preventable by vaccination, and tetanus-containing vaccines are used in the NHS routine vaccination schedule. It is important to check that you are up to date with your primary immunisations before you travel.1 Check with a doctor, nurse or pharmacist if a booster dose may be recommended.

You should clean all wounds thoroughly and seek medical attention if there is any concern about tetanus infection.1

How can Tetanus be treated Icon How is it diagnosed and how can it be treated?

Tetanus is diagnosed by its characteristic symptoms. People infected with tetanus may require hospital care and treatment with immunoglobulin and antibiotics until the effects of the disease eventually wear off.2

Further Information Icon Where can I get further information?

If you have any questions or concerns about exposure to tetanus, please speak to your doctor or a travel health practitioner for more information.

Make sure you contact your GP or travel health practitioner in plenty of time before you travel to discuss the ways you can help to keep yourself healthy whilst away. You should try and contact them at least 4–6 weeks before your trip.

After your trip, you should contact your GP if you develop a fever or notice any other unusual symptoms.

The information provided is a summary that was up to date when this article was published; however, recommendations may be updated from time to time. Please always consult with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist well in advance of travelling.


1. Travel Health Pro. Tetanus. Available at: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/disease/168/tetanus. Accessed February 2024. 2. Fit For Travel. Tetanus. Available at: http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/advice/disease-prevention-advice/tetanus.aspx. Accessed February 2024.

MAT-XU-2203068(v2.0) | February 2024

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