The most common first symptom of tetanus is a spasm or stiffness in the jaw muscles, often followed by stiffness in the neck muscles and then difficulty swallowing, states Mayo Clinic. Later symptoms include stiffness in the abdominal muscles followed by spasms that affect the whole body.
The full body spasms of tetanus can last for several minutes at a time, and can be so violent that they break bones in the back or other areas of the body, explains Mayo Clinic. Secondary symptoms of tetanus can include sweating, fever, elevated heart rate and high blood pressure. The most deadly aspect of tetanus is that it can interfere with a person's ability to breathe. Tetanus is incurable, so treatment focuses on managing the symptoms. In many countries, vaccination for tetanus is common, so its occurrence is very low.
Tetanus is spread when an object contaminated with tetanus bacteria, which are found in soil and animal feces, causes a deep wound in a person, explains Mayo Clinic. Specific methods of entry can include animal bites, tattoo puncture wounds, burns, surgical wounds and compound bone fractures. The treatments for tetanus include sedatives to control muscle spasms, which must sometimes be applied for such a long enough period that they cause permanent disability.