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Is Tetanus contagious?

Updated April 05, 2024

No, tetanus is not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person. There are no laboratory findings to confirm tetanus and a diagnosis is based clinical symptoms. Only about 30 percent of wounds in patients diagnosed with tetanus are found to be positive for the tetanus bacteria. 

The disease that is contracted when a person becomes exposed to the tetanus bacterium (Clostridium tetani) through a break in the skin.  As tetanus is unable to survive in the presence of oxygen, tetanus spores can only develop in the absence of oxygen.  Wounds that do not bleed very much and are protected by tissue and skin from direct exposure to oxygen are more favorable environments for tetanus bacteria to multiple and spread throughout the body. 

Puncture wounds, wounds contaminated with saliva, feces or dirt, crush wounds, burns, and injuries that result in tissue death are most frequently associated with tetanus. 

Less commonly, a person can be exposed to tetanus from surgical wounds, compound fractures, intramuscular injections, intravenous drug use, insect bites, dental infections, chronic sores, and superficial wounds. 

Tetanus is most commonly found in the soil as well as in the intestines of both animals and humans. Tetanus disease can occur anywhere in the world; however, it is more commonly found in regions that are hot, damp, highly populated, and have soil rich in organic matter. Tetanus disease occurs more frequently during the summer or wet season. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Tetanus and the Tetanus vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents , which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.


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