Tetanus is a disease caused by contamination of wounds with microscopic tetanus spores which live in soil. Exposure is through wounds, burns or animal bites mainly. Anyone sustaining a tetanus prone wound (contamination with soil, animal or human bites, deep splinters or significant burns) should receive a tetanus booster if it has been more than 5 years since their last tetanus containing vaccine. Prior to the introduction of tetanus vaccination 70 years ago, tetanus was a common cause of death.
Tetanus booster is advised prior to travel in order to reduce the need to seek medical care overseas in the event of injury.


Onset after exposure leading to muscle spasms, jaw spasm (lockjaw) and eventually respiratory failure and without treatment, death in 20%.


Vaccination - currently vaccination is included in the childhood schedule, with a booster dose in early high school.
Boosters can be given 5 - 10 yearly especially if travelling overseas. The vaccine is combined with diphtheria and /or whooping cough


  • When else should tetanus be given?

    Tetanus spores still exist in soil all over the world. Travellers to countries or in situations where it might be difficult to access safe or timely tetanus vaccination (were they to sustain a tetanus prone wound), should be vaccinated prior to travel if it has been more than 10 years since their last tetanus vaccine, or 5 years if participating in activities where there is a particularly high risk of a tetanus prone wound.