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Are you protected against tetanus?

Recent tetanus cases in NSW, including one death, serve as a harsh reminder of the importance of being up to date with tetanus vaccinations. This was NSW’s first tetanus death in 30 years.

What is tetanus?

Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is a painful and serious disease caused by Clostridium tetani bacteria, which are found in soil, dust, and animal faeces around the world. The bacteria can enter the body through broken skin (e.g. wounds, burns and compound fractures) and produce a toxin that causes tightening of the jaw muscles. Other symptoms of tetanus include muscle spasms and stiffness, difficulty swallowing, and breathing difficulties. Tetanus can result in death.

The best protection against tetanus is vaccination, either as tetanus diphtheria (dT) or tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough (dTpa). Thanks to high vaccination coverage, tetanus is rare in Australia and mainly occurs in older adults who were never vaccinated or who were vaccinated a long time ago.

Are your tetanus vaccinations up to date?

Adults who have had a primary course of tetanus-containing vaccines in infancy and childhood and have not had a booster in the previous 10 years should get a booster dose at 50 years of age (as dT or dTpa) and at 65 years of age (as dTpa). Adults and adolescents who have never had a primary course of tetanus-containing vaccines should receive three doses (with at least four weeks between doses), as well as a booster dose 10 and 20 years post-primary vaccination.  

Planning a trip?

If you intend to travel, you should check with your healthcare practitioner that your tetanus vaccination status is current and find out about any other any recommended or required immunisations before you set off on your adventure. More frequent tetanus vaccination is recommended for travellers at higher risk, for example, those participating in adventure-style trips and/or visiting regions where health services are difficult to access. Tetanus is of particular concern in developing countries with low immunisation rates and in areas where contact with soil and animal faeces is more likely.


For comprehensive travel medicine services, including vaccine advice and administration, contact Travel Doctor-TMVC on 1300 658 844 before your next trip.





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