Tetanus Vaccine Requires Periodic Shots

In the warm season we spend more and more time working or relaxing outdoors and such activities may increase the risk of cuts and punctures, which may lead to contracting an especially dangerous disease - tetanus. Even a slight injury from a dirty, soil-contaminated, sharp instrument or object can cause this serious infectious disease as tetanus causing bacteria enters the body mostly through broken skin. As the time of intensive gardening approaches, NPHC specialists urge gardeners to get gardening gloves (especially if the hands have cuts on them), use gardening tools carefully, and most importantly get a tetanus booster.

On average, 1-2 tetanus cases are registered in Lithuania each year. "Last year, three people were diagnosed with tetanus in the country: one in the 18-24 age group and two in the 25-44 age group. All of them were hospitalised," says Daiva Razmuviene, a chief specialist of Infectious Disease Management Unit at NPHC.

Older people are the most vulnerable. According to the Preventive Vaccination Schedule for Childrenof the Republic of Lithuania, children are vaccinated against tetanus, whooping cough and diphtheria (at the age of 2, 4, 6 and 18 months, 6-7 years and 15-16 years). In recent years, the levelof vaccination among children aged 1 year against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough was more or less 90%. However, vaccination coverage goal is 90-95% of the target group.


A booster shot is recommended every 10 years

To maintain reliable long-term protection against this infection, adult vaccination should be repeated every 10 years.

"In Lithuania, people aged 26 years and older are vaccinated free of charge every ten years. The vaccine used for adult vaccination not only protects against tetanus but against diphtheria as well. I would like to note that tetanus disease does not result in tetanus immunity, therefore vaccine is the only means to protect against tetanus. Everyone who wants to be vaccinated should contact their family doctor," says NPHC representative.

People who have never been vaccinated against tetanus, those who have been vaccinated but have not received a full course of vaccines or those who have received a vaccination more than 10 years after their last vaccination are at higher risk of contracting tetanus. People working in farms or gardens and the elderly are at higher risk of contracting the disease as their general immunity and their immunity to tetanus may be weakened.


Tetanus manifests in the form of muscle spasms

The first symptoms of tetanus are transient muscle spasms at the site of infection, which can last up to several weeks. Later, the disease manifests itself in muscle spasms of varying severity. They can be very painful and last from a few seconds to several minutes. Afterwards, the spasms become more frequent and longer and more painful. The spasms can be so severe that long bones and teeth can break during the fit. In severe tetanus, prolonged spasms can lead to respiratory failure and death.