Weekly Safety Meeting – Tetanus – “Lockjaw”

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tetanus is an infection caused by bacteria called Clostridium tetani (C. tetani) that are found in the environment. Tetanus is an uncommon but very serious disease, that requires immediate treatment in a hospital.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms typically occur between 3 and 21 days (average 8 days) after exposure. The first sign is most commonly spasms of the jaw muscles, or “lockjaw.”

Other symptoms can include trouble swallowing, sudden, involuntary muscle spasms — often in the stomach, painful muscle stiffness all over the body, seizures (jerking or staring), headache, fever and sweating and changes in blood pressure and heart rate.


Tetanus can cause serious health problems, including laryngospasm (uncontrolled tightening of the vocal cords), fracture (broken bone), pulmonary embolism (blockage in lungs caused by a blood clot), aspiration pneumonia (lung infection from inhaling spit or vomit), and breathing difficulty.

Tetanus can lead to death (1 in 10 cases in the United States are fatal).

Risk Factors

However, several factors can increase risk for tetanus infection.

Vaccination Status

  • Infants, children, and adults who have never received a tetanus vaccine are at increased risk. Similarly, people who are not up to date with their 10-year tetanus booster shots are also at increased risk.

Recent Wound

  • People with a recent wound are at increased risk for tetanus. This is especially true if the wound is deep or contaminated with dirt.

Other Risk Factors

  • The following risk factors also increase the risk of tetanus:
    • Being 70 years or older;
    • Having diabetes;
    • Having an imunocompromising condition; and
    • Injection of drugs.


Tetanus bacteria can get into someone’s body through broken skin, or a puncture. These exposures are usually caused by injuries.

Vaccination Is the Best Protection

The best way to prevent tetanus is to get vaccinated. CDC recommends tetanus vaccination for everyone.

Download flyer: SMOTW_1126_Tetanus

Download Spanish flyer: SMOTW_1126_Tetanus_esp

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