The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

Tetanus

Tetanus is a disease that affects the nervous system, characterized by painful tightening and spasms of the muscles. It is caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, which produces a neurotoxin when growing in the absence of oxygen. The spores of these bacteria are plentiful in the environment and affect humans when they get trapped in dirty wounds and release neurotoxins in the body.

Symptoms
At the onset of tetanus, patients usually develop headaches and spasms in the jaw muscles. This can lead to “lockjaw,” or a tightening of the jaw, until the patient can no longer open the mouth or swallow. As the disease progresses, spasms occur in other muscles, and patients sometimes experience muscle dysfunction that resembles seizures. Infections should be treated immediately; 1 out of every 10 tetanus cases results in death.

Treatment
There is no cure for tetanus but medication can be used to ease its symptoms. Antibiotics are prescribed to fight the tetanus bacteria and antitoxins can fight toxins that have not yet bonded to and affected nervous tissue. Sedatives and other medications can help regulate muscle activity and prevent spasms.

Prevention
Tetanus can easily be prevented by the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) vaccine, which is typically administered to young children. Adults should receive tetanus boosters every 10 years and international travelers should get them before leaving their home country. Other precautions include cleaning wounds carefully to remove dirt and foreign objects that may carry tetanus spores.

Sources:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tetanus/DS00227/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs
http://www.who.int/immunization/topics/tetanus/en/index.html
http://www.who.int/immunization/topics/tetanus/en/index.html
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/tetanus/in-short-both.htm

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What do you know about infectious disease?

True or False: Antibiotics work by introducing an agent that resembles a disease-causing microbe, thus stimulating the body's immune system to recognize it as foreign, destroy it, and "remember" it, so that it can more easily identify and destroy any similar, disease-causing microbes that it later encounters.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The above describes how vaccines work. Antibiotics work by either killing bacteria or stopping them from reproducing, allowing the body's natural defenses to eliminate the pathogens.

  • Correct!

    The above describes how vaccines work. Antibiotics work by either killing bacteria or stopping them from reproducing, allowing the body's natural defenses to eliminate the pathogens.

Infectious Disease Defined

Evolution

The change in heritable traits in a population of organisms over successive generations.

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