How you get tetanus

Tetanus is caused by bacteria called Clostridium tetani. These bacteria can survive for a long time outside the body, and are commonly found in soil and the manure of animals such as horses and cows.

If they enter the body through a wound, the bacteria can quickly multiply and release a toxin that affects the nerves, causing symptoms such as muscle stiffness and spasms.

The bacteria can cause tetanus if they get into the body through:

  • cuts and scrapes
  • tears or splits in the skin
  • burns
  • animal bites
  • body piercings , tattoos and injections
  • eye injuries
  • injection of contaminated drugs

Deepwounds containing dirt or foreign objects are most likely to lead to tetanus, but the condition can occur aftera minor injury you didn't notice at the time.

Tetanus cannot be spread from person to person.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018