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Recognizing symptoms of tetanus

A dog bite in New Jersey can result in tetanus in someone who has not received the vaccine or a recent booster shot. Tetanus infection results from bacteria that enter the body through an opening in the skin. According to the Cleveland Clinic, tetanus proves fatal in approximately 30% of cases. Therefore, it is important to receive medical treatment as soon as possible if symptoms start showing up.

Symptoms of tetanus can take three days to three weeks after the exposure to appear. The bacteria produce a toxin that affects the muscles of the body, particularly in the areas of the jaw, arms, legs, neck and stomach. The toxin causes painful muscle spasms and contractions in these areas. The first spasms to appear are typically in the area of the jaw.

Over time, the muscle contractions can worsen to the point that the patient can no longer open his or her mouth. For this reason, tetanus also goes by the name of lockjaw. Muscle contraction and stiffness can also make swallowing difficult and force the patient’s face into an expression resembling a sneer.

There are other symptoms associated with tetanus. According to WebMD, the patient may experience drooling, loss of appetite and restlessness, in addition to excessive sweating and fever. In addition to muscle spasms of the jaw, early symptoms of tetanus include crankiness and headache.

The bacteria that can cause tetanus frequently occur in the soil or in the manure of animals. Dogs may carry the bacteria in their mouths without becoming infected. A bite from a dog in which the teeth break the skin can then transfer the bacteria into the human body, putting the person receiving the bite at risk for infection.