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Tetanus is caused by bacteria called Clostridium tetani, which can invade the body and produce a poison that causes painful muscle contractions. Another name for tetanus is "lockjaw", because it can cause neck and jaw muscles to lock, making it hard to open the mouth or swallow.

Tetanus is not spread person to person.  It is usually contracted when spores from the bacteria, which can be present in soil and animal feces, enter the body through puncture wounds or breaks in the skin.

There is an effective vaccine for tetanus, and tetanus is uncommon in the United States, with an average of 29 cases reported per year from 1996 through 2009.  Almost all cases are among people who have never received a tetanus vaccine, or adults who were not up to date wtih 10-year booster shots.

Alaska Surveillance Data

In past five years, Alaska has received 0-1 case reports per year.  The cases occurred in adults who were not up-to-date with vaccinations.

Resources for the General Public

Resources for Healthcare Providers

Tetanus is a public health reportable condition in Alaska.  Reports must be made within 5 working days after being suspected or diagnosed.  Please call the Alaska Section of Epidemiology at 907-269-8000.