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a.k.a Tetan

This terrible bug infects travellers around the world by getting into open wounds. It causes stiff jaw muscles, painful muscle spasms, a fever and a rapid heartbeat. If you have a deep wound, or one that has dirt in it, get medical help.

Key Fact

In the UK, around 1 in every 7-10 people who develop tetanus will die from the condition.1

disease risk map

How do people catch the disease?

Tetanus bacteria get into the body through a skin wound, scratch or animal bite. Wounds that are deep and contain dirt are more likely to cause infection. You can also catch the disease through unhygienic practices in hospital and by injecting drugs.3

Which countries are affected?

Tetanus is found across most of the world.2

What are the symptoms?

Stiffness in the jaw muscles; painful muscle spasms that can affect swallowing and breathing; fever; sweating and rapid heartbeat.1

How serious is the disease?

Tetanus can cause problems with breathing and the heart. It can be fatal.1

Can I reduce the chances of catching the disease?

You can take the following precautions to help reduce your risk of infection:

  • Visit your nearest convenient pharmacy or specialist travel health clinic for a risk assessment before your trip
  • Cleaning the wound thoroughly will reduce the risk of infection3


1. NHS Choices. Conditions. Tetanus. June 2017. Available online:http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Tetanus/Pages/Introduction.aspx (Last accessed September 2017)

2. World Health Organization. Immunization Monitoring. Tetanus (neonatal) reported cases. September 2017. Available online: http://apps.who.int/immunization_monitoring/globalsummary/timeseries/tsincidencentetanus.html (Last accessed September 2017)

3. World Health Organization (WHO). Weekly Epidemiological Record. WHO Position Paper on Tetanus. May 2006. Available online:
http://www.who.int/wer/2006/wer8120.pdf (Last accessed September 2017)


UK/TRA/0817/0171s September 2017