Postexposure Treatment for Tetanus

Q&A

What is tetanus?
Tetanus is a toxin that is produced by a bacterium called Clostridium tetani. These bacteria cannot grow if exposed to oxygen, which is why very deep wounds can be prone to infection. The spores produced by the bacteria cause an acute, life-threatening disease and are extremely hard to kill because they are resistant to both heat and many chemical agents that are used to eliminate bacteria.1

How is it contracted?
The spores responsible for tetanus can be found in soil and in intestines and feces of many household and farm animals. The bacteria can enter the body through a puncture wound. Tetanus cannot be spread from person to person.1

What are the symptoms?
There are 3 types of tetanus, with generalized tetanus being the most common type. The symptoms of generalized tetanus most commonly seen are spasms in the jaw muscle, followed by stiffness of the neck, difficulty swallowing, and rigidity of the abdominal muscles. Other symptoms include fever, sweating, elevated blood pressure, and rapid heart rate. Spasms often occur and may last for several minutes and continue for 3 to 4 weeks. Complete recovery, if it occurs, may take months.1

How can I prevent tetanus after exposure?
Tetanus can be fatal; the best treatment for tetanus is prevention. [CDC_tetanus pinkbook/p4/para3] You should make sure that you are up to date with tetanus vaccinations. Should you have a wound that could possibly be contaminated by tetanus, or you're unsure of your immunization status, you will need both a dose of tetanus immune globulin—such as HyperTET S/D—as soon as possible and a tetanus-and-diphtheria-containing vaccine (Td or Tdap).1

What is a tetanus immune globulin, and why isn't a vaccine enough?
Tetanus immune globulin is a treatment that contains high levels of tetanus antibodies. An immune globulin works much faster than a vaccine, but does not last as long. Because of the potentially life-threatening nature of tetanus, doctors will give you a tetanus immune globulin shot such as HyperTET S/D and a vaccine to make sure you get the comprehensive care you need.1

QUICK FACTS

  • During 1998-2000, the fatality rate for reported tetanus in the United States was 18%2
  • Almost all reported cases of tetanus are in persons who have either never been vaccinated or who completed a primary series but have not had a booster in the preceding 10 years1
  • It is possible to get tetanus more than once. People recovering from tetanus should receive the full vaccination series1

HyperTET® S/D (tetanus immune globulin [human]) is indicated for prophylaxis against tetanus following injury in patients whose immunization is incomplete or uncertain.

HyperTET S/D should be given with caution to patients with a history of prior systemic allergic reactions following the administration of human immunoglobulin preparations.

In patients who have severe thrombocytopenia or any coagulation disorder that would contraindicate intramuscular injections, HyperTET S/D should be given only if the expected benefits outweigh the risks.

Slight soreness at the site of injection and slight temperature elevation may be noted at times. Sensitization to repeated injections of human immunoglobulin is extremely rare. In the course of routine injections of large numbers of persons with immunoglobulin, there have been a few isolated occurrences of angioneurotic edema, nephrotic syndrome, and anaphylactic shock after injection. Administration of live virus vaccines (eg, MMR) should be deferred for approximately 3 months after tetanus immune globulin (human) administration.

HyperTET S/D is made from human plasma. Products made from human plasma may contain infectious agents, such as viruses and theoretically, the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) agent that can cause disease. There is also the possibility that unknown infectious agents may be present in such products.

Please see HyperTET S/D full Prescribing Information for complete prescribing details.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.


References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Epidemiology and prevention of vaccine-preventable diseases. CDC website. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/tetanus.html. Updated September 8, 2016. Accessed April 27, 2016.
  2. Pascual FB, McGinley EL, Zanardi LR, Cortese MM, Murphy TV; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tetanus surveillance—United States, 1998-2000. MMWR Surveil Summ. 2003;52(SS03);1-8.