Tetanus Disease

Last updated: February 8, 2023

Tetanus (lockjaw) is a rare and serious disease of the nervous system. It causes stiffness and spasms of the muscles. The muscle stiffness usually starts in the jaw, spreads to the neck, and then throughout the entire body.

Tetanus is caused by a germ that enters the body through a cut or wound. The germ that causes tetanus is found in soil and in animal and human feces.

Tetanus is not transmitted from one person to another.

Tetanus Vaccine

Vaccination is the best way to protect against tetanus. Currently, there are 4 different tetanus-containing vaccines for use in the United States: DTaP, DT, Td, and Tdap.

DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) is administered to children from 6 weeks through 6 years of age. Tetanus is rare in children in the USA because most children get DTaP vaccines; however, protection declines over time. Booster doses of tetanus-containing vaccines are needed every 10 years.

DT (diphtheria, tetanus) is administered to children from 6 weeks through 6 years of age if a child has a valid contraindication to pertussis vaccine.

Td (tetanus, diphtheria) vaccine is for persons 7 years of age and older. It protects against both tetanus and diphtheria (another serious disease that can lead to death). People should get at least 3 doses of tetanus and diphtheria vaccine during their lifetime. After the third dose, a Td booster dose is needed every 10 years throughout life.

Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis), another tetanus-containing vaccine, protects persons over 10 years of age against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). All adolescents and adults over 10 years of age should receive one dose of pertussis-containing tetanus vaccine in their lifetime to decrease the risk of pertussis disease. Surround your baby with protection. Parents and other family members and day care providers can get Tdap Vaccine at their health care provider or at the Glen Burnie and Parole Health Centers for a $14 fee.

For wound management, persons with an injury from a cut or wound should consult with their health care provider. The health care provider may recommend an additional Td booster shot if more than 5 years have passed since a persons prior dose of vaccine.

Getting Your Shots

DTaP, Td and Tdap vaccine shots for children are available year-round at the Department of Health’s area health centers. The tetanus vaccine is also available for adults with injuries. Please call the health center nearest you for information:

  • Parole Health Center
  • Glen Burnie Health Center
  • For more information, call your physician or the Department of Health Immunization Services Program at 410-222-4896.Tetanus (CDC)

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