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Tetanus (Lockjaw)

Poster: It’s Time to Get Immunized Against Tetanus

tetanus poster
It’s Time to Get Immunized Against Tetanus
English (PDF: 240k)
French (PDF: 244k)
English (PDF: 1.5m )
French (PDF: 1.5m )

Tetanus is a disease caused by a toxin (or poison) that blocks normal control of nerve reflexes in the spinal column. The first symptom is usually spasm of the jaw muscles (“lockjaw”) followed by painful spasms of muscles in the face, neck, chest, abdomen, arms and legs. These spasms can last up to a month. Tetanus germs exist as growing bacteria and spores; spores are found most frequently in soil, as well as in dust on the street and in homes. Tetanus spores typically enter the body through an open wound in the skin. Tetanus is not contagious, making it unique among infections. It is a severe disease; even with treatment, the death rate is 10% to 20%.

Since tetanus spores occur everywhere in our environment, vaccination is the only effective means of protection. Following the vaccine series in infancy and early childhood, booster doses every 10 years are recommended to ensure long-term protection against tetanus.


Public Health Agency of Canada. Canadian Immunization Guide. Evergreen edition. (external link)

Canadian Paediatric Society. Tetanus. (external link)


tetanus brochure
Tetanus brochure
English (PDF: 208k)
French (PDF: 209k)
tetanus print ad
Tetanus 1/2-page print ad
English (PDF: 103k)
French (PDF: 103k)
tetanus poster
Tetanus poster
English (PDF: 112k)
French (PDF: 111k)
tetanus banner ad
Tetanus banner ad
English (PDF: 79k)
French (PDF: 79k)

Capsule History

  • Early 1900s – Over 5000 cases of tetanus occurred in the United States every year.
  • After 1920 – The introduction of horse antiserum neutralized the effect of tetanus toxin and improved the care of wounds, leading to reduced cases and deaths in Canada and other industrialized countries.
  • 1940s – The vaccine became available in Canada and the United States. The rate of tetanus among wounded soldiers, for example, was 30 times less in World War II than in World War I. During this decade, routine immunization of infants began in Canada.
  • 1980s to present – From 1980 to 2004, the number of cases reported annually ranged from 1 to 10, with an average of 4 per year; no cases of tetanus were reported in newborns in Canada.

Tetanus (Global Television interview – May 13, 2009) (WMV: 7m, 3:15) (external link)