The tetanus bacteria enters the body through wounds, such as cuts and scrapes, tears, burns, animal bites, body piercings, tattoos, injections and eye injuries . Deep wounds containing dirt are most likely to lead to tetanus. Symptoms usually develop within 4 to 21 days after infection (on average after 10 days). Initial symptoms are stiffness in your jaw muscles (lockjaw), making it difficult to open your mouth. This stiffness, often accompanied by painful muscle spasms, spreads to the neck and limbs over the following days. It can become difficult to swallow and in severe cases can cause difficulties in breathing, suffocation and cardiac arrest. Other symptoms include high temperature, sweating, high blood pressure, and rapid heartbeat.
Countries at risk
Tetanus is found throughout the world, so if you are travelling abroad make sure you are fully vaccinated. The bacteria are particularly prevalent in China, India, Africa, and South America. The bacteria can survive for a long time outside the body and is commonly found in soil, and the manure of animals such as horses and cows.
Advice for travellers
Tetanus is a vaccine preventable disease. It is not contagious and cannot be passed person to person. The disease is only contactable through a wound so care should be taken to avoid these. If you are concerned about a wound seek medical attention especially if it is deep or contains dirt or a foreign object. Other activities with the risk of catching tetanus include getting body piercings, tattoos, injection of contaminated drugs and intravenous drug use.
Tetanus is preventable by vaccination. Travellers going abroad may be recommended the vaccine if they haven’t been fully vaccinated against tetanus, going to an area with limited medical facility, or the last vaccine was more than ten years ago. If you have never had the vaccine you may be recommended to have as many of the three initial does as possible before you leave (one month gap between doses). Otherwise a single booster dose may be recommended and the vaccine contains diphtheria, tetanus and polio. In the UK tetanus is rare as the DTP vaccination to protect against tetanus is given as part of the childhood vaccination schedule.
Number of doses
Over 10 years
Diphtheria, tetanus and polio- One dose (provided childhood course completed)
After 10 years
Meningitis ACWY For Hajj/Umrah
Meningitis symptoms can develop quickly and they can be difficult to spot as they as similar to symptoms of flu. Infection with meningitis is an emergency and requires admission into a hospital where you will be given antibiotics. All pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for Hajj or Umrah are required to show proof of vaccination in the last three years against meningitis ACWY.
Vaccination is required at least 10 days before you are due to travel and you will also receive a certificate as part of your vaccination.