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How do you contract tetanus bacteria?

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Quick Answer

The Clostridium tetani bacteria is contracted when spores come in contact with cuts or punctures, such as surgical wounds, animal bites, splinters, burns or needle injection sites, WebMD states. Spores grow in soil and are usually transferred into an open wound when people touch or receive cuts from contaminated objects, such as rusty or dirty needles. Tetanus isn't a contagion that spreads from person to person.

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Full Answer

When newborns are exposed to unhygienic practices and delivery rooms, they can be contaminated with neonatal tetanus from an infected umbilical cord, according to KidsHealth. Other risk factors include contact with feces, saliva and dust, especially when a person has a wound containing dead skin. As of 2014, vaccinations have made tetanus outbreaks so rare in the United States that less than 50 cases are reported annually.

Tetanus symptoms appear when a highly infectious toxin is released into the bloodstream from bacterial spores, which can only survive and grow by traveling deep into wounds and away from oxygen, WebMD states. The origin wound may be small and difficult to locate, and the person may not remember being cut at all. The toxin attacks the nervous system, preventing muscle relaxation and triggering spasms in the back, limbs and face, especially the jaw muscles. The condition causes the muscles to contract and stiffen uncomfortably and can also interfere with respiratory function. A person with tetanus may also have trouble swallowing, breathing or controlling facial movements.

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