Tetanus is caused by a neurotoxin produced by Clostridium tetani, an anaerobic spore forming bacillus. Tetanus spores are widespread in the environment, including in soil. They can survive hostile conditions for long periods of time.
Tetanus is not spread from person to person. Transmission occurs when spores are introduced into the body, often through a puncture wound but also through trivial, unnoticed wounds, through injecting drug use, and occasionally through abdominal surgery.
For symptoms and general information on tetanus, visit NHS Choices
Tetanus is a notifiable disease in England. Health professionals must inform local health protection teams of suspected cases.
Diagnosis and management
Tetanus is preventable through adequate immunisation and wound management. Five doses of vaccine are now considered to give adequate immunity and routine boosters every 10 years are no longer necessary.
Published 23 December 2008