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Sunday,October 25,2020 19:14 PM

A shot in time keeps tetanus away

By Vision Reporter

Added 10th October 2010 03:00 AM

TETANUS, also known as lock-jaw, is an ailment that affects the nervous system and causes painful uncontrolled muscle spasms.

TETANUS, also known as lock-jaw, is an ailment that affects the nervous system and causes painful uncontrolled muscle spasms.

FOR many, a small tear on the skin is nothing to worry about. However, as Vique-Ocean Kahinju writes, that small cut could cost your life. The irony is that simple vaccination can take all that danger away...

TETANUS, also known as lock-jaw, is an ailment that affects the nervous system and causes painful uncontrolled muscle spasms.

Lock -jaw (spasmodic contraction of the jaw muscles) makes the face stiff leading to convulsions. This is the commonest symptom of underlying tetanus infection.

It is an old disease and known to affect only human beings, explains Dr. Gerald Walusimbi, a general practioner at Kiisi Medical Centre in Kampala.

“Tetanus is caused by the infection of a wound by the bacterium, Clostridium tetani, also known as the C.tetani,” he says.

“In the presence of anaerobic (low oxygen) conditions, the tetanus spores take root. The tetanus bacteria is very stubborn so it requires complex and consistent treatment to get rid of the infection, otherwise if delayed the situation can run out of hand and lead to death,” he says.

“Anyone with a cut left uncleaned, untreated and uncovered is vulnerable to contracting tetanus. Even two seconds of an exposed wound or pierce puts you at risk of getting tetanus,” he cautions.

Dr. Adebiyi Ogusanya, a general practioner in Kololo says about seven days after infection, a victim experiences muscle inflammation which causes muscle spasms, restleness, headache, irritability, lockjaw and the lungs stop functioning. This can trigger off convulsions (seizures).

“This often leads to death,” he adds.
“Unfortunately, tetanus bacteria is resistant to heat and disinfectants, thus the need to get prior immunisation in one’s life. Newly born babies and infants are at risk of suffering from neonatal tetanus if not immunised against tetanus,” says Dr. Walusimbi.

He adds that newly born babies may contract tetanus through the detaching umbilical cord if not treated with antiseptics such as dettol liquid or methylated spirit. Antiseptic drugs keep the C.tetani bacteria at bay.

Dr. Ogusanya explains that tetanus is a fatal illness that needs to be taken seriously. Since it is associated with the nervous system, the tetanus bacteria spreads in the body very fast like a snake’s venom, causing lockjaws and other severe symptoms to the victim.

He adds that tetanus has been mostly associated with rust. In this case, the bacterium produces a substance that is toxic to the central nervous system.
Ogusanya explains, that there are currently no blood tests that can be used to diagnose tetanus.

However, diagnosis is based on presentation of symptoms and does not depend upon isolation of the bacteria.
Facial spasms called Risus Sardonicus are the first symptoms of generalised tetanus. “In addition, incorrect diagnosis of tetanus leads to immediate death,” adds Ogusanya.

“To treat tetanus, the wound or cut is cleaned with antiseptics, followed by taking antibiotics. Sedation is often done to stop muscle spasms (muscle tremors/contractions),” he adds.

“Anyone suspecting to have contracted tetanus should also watch for other symptoms even though they have taken antibiotics.”

Patients who have jaw locks often experience pounding headache and neck pain,” says Ogusanya. Death can still occur after medication. However, it is rare after tetanus immunisation. For all people, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.

Dr. Edgar Mujuni a general practioner at Cadam Medical Centre in Kampala says tetanus vaccination is one of the recommended childhood immunisations and should begin during infancy. Generally such vaccination is required before a child starts school.

“Almost all people who receive a minimum of three injections of tetanus-containing vaccine will be protected against the ailment for at least 10 years,” says Mujuni.

However, it is advisable to get Tetanus immune globulin in case you have accidentally exposed your open cut body to bacteria.

Tetanus immune globulin is not a vaccine because it provides immediate, short-term protection against the infection, but does not provide long-term immunity against tetanus.

It can nonetheless be used when someone is believed to have been exposed to the bacteria.

“It is advisable to have tetanus vaccination every after ten years in one’s life span,” says Dr. Mujuni. “Never take chances because tetanus bacteria can affect any one susptible.

However, people leaving in unhygienic environment are more vulnerable to the disease. Since the bacteria are very swift at entering open or sore body parts it is vital to take antibiotics as fast as one gets exposed to an accident that may cause a cut,” emphasises Mujuni.

A shot in time keeps tetanus away

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