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    Infectious Disease Control Unit
    Mail Code: 1960
    PO BOX 149347 - Austin, TX 78714-9347
    1100 West 49th Street, Suite T801
    Austin, TX 78714

    Phone: (512) 776-7676
    Fax: (512) 776-7616




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Organism, Causative Agent, or Etiologic Agent

Tetanus is a disease of the nervous system caused by toxins released by the Clostridium tetani bacteria.


The tetanus bacterium enters the body through a break in the skin. Tetanus may follow elective surgery, burns, deep puncture wounds, crush wounds, otitis media (ear infections), dental infection, animal bites, abortion, and pregnancy. Tetanus is not transmitted from person to person.


Tetanus mainly affects the neck and abdomen. Tetanus is also known as “lockjaw” because it often causes a person’s neck and jaw muscles to lock, making it hard to open the mouth or swallow. It also can cause breathing problems, severe muscle spasms, and seizure-like movements. Complete recovery can take months. If left untreated, tetanus can be fatal.


Proper wound care and keeping up to date with tetanus immunizations are the best prevention for tetanus. Persons suspected to be infected with tetanus will often be given immune globulin intramuscularly to slow the progress of the disease. Otherwise treatment includes bed rest and quiet conditions and treating the complications of the diseases.

School Exclusion Policy

While children diagnosed with or suspected of having tetanus need prompt medical attention, they do not need to be excluded from school or childcare. Rules for exclusion of sick children from school and childcare are outlined in the Texas Administrative Code, specifically Rule 97.7 for schools and Rule 746.3603 for childcare.

 atexas trends  Recent Texas Trends

Tetanus is rare in Texas. People who have never been vaccinated or who have not had a booster in recent years are at highest risk for tetanus. In the past five years, Texas has had a total of 13 cases: three cases in 2012, two cases in 2013, four cases in 2014, two cases in 2015, and two cases in 2016.  

Last updated January 18, 2018