Tetanus is a potentially life-threatening disease, usually associated with infected puncture wounds. Its common name is lockjaw, because a typical first symptom of the disease is stiffness and tightening of the jaw muscles. Tetanus has been recognized for centuries, even as early as the 5th 4th century B.C., in the picturesque descriptions Hippocrates gave of the disease.

This infectious disease is caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani, which is sometimes found in soil. It produces a toxin as it multiplies, that affects the nervous system. Some symptoms of tetanus are muscular spasms, and rigidity of the body, there might also be chills, headache, fever, and difficulty swallowing. If gone unchecked this toxin causes death.

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When diagnosed a physician will sterilize the wound. If the Tetanus is already severe the patient will become hypersensitive and must be kept in a quite dark room. At this stage the doctors can only treat the symptoms, with muscle relaxants, antibiotics, and sedatives. The most important treatment for Tetanus is prevention, through a vaccine.

In the 19th century Tetanus was the concern of Joseph Lister in patients who had the disease in the hospital. A. Carle, G. Rattone, A. Nicolaire, and others recognized the Infectious nature of Tetanus in 1884 1888. The isolation of the bacteria and its toxin happened in 1889-1892 by S. Kitasato, T Weyl, and A. Nicolaire. S. Kitasato, L. Villiard, E. von Behring, and W. Schutz did animal experiments on both active and passive immunization in 1890 1892. Crystallization of the neurotoxin happened in 1949, because of L. Pillemer and K.C. Robbins.

Tetanus is seldom a problem in the United States today and then is primarily in those people who have let their vaccinations lapse. It is however a major heath problem in developing countries. I am glad that the United States takes such precautions as to require vaccinations; it makes me feel safer as an American.

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