Tetanus is an acute bacterial disease characterized by a heavy affection of the nervous system with the further development of convulsions. The disease is caused by a tetanus bacillus, which can exist in spores in the environment for years.
The incubation period of the disease may last from several days to one month, but commonly it takes 7 – 14 days on average. The shorter the incubation period, the more severe the disease and the higher the probability of death. The first specific symptoms that indicate tetanus during its initial stage are as follows:
- tension and spasmodic contraction of the masticatory muscles, which leads to difficulties when opening the mouth (lockjaw);
- tension of mimic muscles, resulted in a “sardonic smile” that gives a person a specific sick expression of wrinkled forehead, narrowed eye slits, stretched lips and dropped corners of the mouth;
- difficult and painful swallowing, caused by a convulsive spasm of the pharynx muscles;
- one of the earliest signs is a dull pain in the area where infection penetrated through the damaged skin.It’s worth noting that a combination of the first three symptoms, i.e. lockjaw, “sardonic smile” and difficulties with swallowing, is characteristic only for tetanus.
As the disease progresses, a set of additional signs develops. They include: