Tetanus is a potentially fatal bacterial disease. The bacteria enter the human body through a deep, open wound. This wound could be caused by an animal bite, but any wound that is contaminated by dirt or caused by a dirty object, such as a splinter, can lead to tetanus.
Stiffness of the jaw is usually the first sign of tetanus. This is followed by stiffness and spasm of the neck, face and other muscles, seizures and fever.
Immunisation is the best way to prevent infection. All South African children should receive tetanus vaccination as part of the routine immunisation programme. Booster vaccinations should be given at least every 10 years thereafter. If a wound is very dirty, it is advisable to give a booster after 5 years.