3.3.1  Definition, cause and occurrence of tetanus

Tetanus is a neurological disorder, that is, a disorder of the nervous system. Symptoms of tetanus are tight muscles that are difficult to relax, and muscle spasms (muscle contractions that occur without the person wanting them to). These problems with the muscles are caused by a toxin (poison) produced by the bacteria called Clostridium tetani.

Tetanus is among the top ten causes of illness and death in newborns in Ethiopia. Tetanus in newborns is called neonatal tetanus. Nine out of every 1,000 newborns in Ethiopia have neonatal tetanus. More than 72% of the newborns who have tetanus will die.

Tetanus is also common among older children and adults who are susceptible to the infection. Unvaccinated persons are at risk of the disease, and people who have a dirty wound which favours the growth of the bacteria that cause tetanus are especially vulnerable.

3.3.2  Mode of transmission of tetanus