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Tetanus is an acute infectious disease caused by spores of the bacterium Clostridium tetani. The spores are found everywhere in the environment, particularly in soil, ash, intestinal tracts/feces of animals and humans, and on the surfaces of skin and rusty tools like nails, needles, barbed wire, etc. Being very resistant to heat and most antiseptics, the spores can survive for years.

Anyone can get tetanus, but the disease is particularly common and serious in newborn babies and pregnant women who have not been sufficiently immunized with tetanus-toxoid-containing vaccines. Tetanus during pregnancy or within 6 weeks of the end of pregnancy is called “maternal tetanus”, and tetanus within the first 28 days of life is called “neonatal tetanus”.

The WHO definition of non-neonatal tetanus requires at least one of the following signs: a sustained spasm of the facial muscles in which the person appears to be grinning, or painful muscular contractions. Although this definition requires a history of injury or wound, tetanus may also occur in patients who are unable to recall a specific wound or injury.

Source: World Health Organization