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Tetanus illustration

What is tetanus?

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

Tetanus illustration

Risk areas for Tetanus

Map of risk areas for Tetanus
  • Key fact

    Most people who get tetanus weren’t vaccinated against it or didn’t complete the entire vaccination schedule.1

  • How do you get tetanus?

    Tetanus bacteria gets into the body through a skin wound, scratch or animal bite. You can also catch the disease through unhygienic practices in hospital, by injecting drugs, through body piercings and tattoos, as well as eye injuries and burns.1,3

  • Which countries are affected by tetanus?

    Tetanus is found across the world, but some countries have higher incidences than others.2

  • What are the symptoms of tetanus?

    Symptoms include: stiffness in the jaw muscles, painful muscle spasms that can affect swallowing and breathing, fever, sweating and rapid heartbeat.1

  • How serious is tetanus?

    Tetanus can cause problems with breathing and the heart. If left untreated, the symptoms can get worse over a short period of time.1

  • Can I prevent getting tetanus?

    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 any new wound thoroughly will reduce the risk of infection but seek medical advice if you have a deep wound, there’s dirt or something inside the wound or if you are not sure if you have been vaccinated against tetanus1,3

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  1. NHS. Conditions. Tetanus. May 2020. Available online: (Last accessed May 2023)
  2. World Health Organization. The Global Health Observatory. Total tetanus – number of reported cases. Data. July 2022. Available online:—number-of-reported-cases (Last accessed May 2023)
  3. World Health Organization (WHO). Weekly Epidemiological Record. Tetanus vaccines: WHO position paper – February 2017. Available online: (Last accessed May 2023)

UK-BOTB-2100017 (v2.0) May 2023