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Tetanus is a bacterial infection that attacks the nervous system. Tetanus may result in severe muscle spasms, and this can lead to a condition known as lockjaw, which prevents the mouth from opening and closing. Tetanus can be fatal.
Tetanus is caused when the bacterium, Clostridium tetani, enters the body through a break in the skin. The bacterium can come from soil, dust, or manure. It produces a toxin that causes the illness.
This infection is most common in people aged 50 years and older. Also, people who have not been immunized for tetanus, who do not update their tetanus shot regularly, who use intravenous (IV) drugs, who have skin sores or wounds, or who have had burns or open wounds exposed to soil or animal feces are at increased risk of developing tetanus.