Tetanus

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Introduction

Clostridium tetani more commonly known as Tetanus is an acute infectious disease. Tetanus is not contagious and is a neurotoxin produced by Clostridium tetani. It is characterized by muscular spasms that mainly involve the voluntary muscle groups. Tetanus can affect horses, goat, swine, cat, dog, sheep, cattle and many other domestic animals. In cattle the disease is relatively rare, but in some cases can spread through a herd causing substantial economic loss. Clostridium tetani is a gram-positive anaerobic bacteria that can be found in the soil, intestines of many animals and therefore it is also naturally found in the feces of most animals. Tetanus is more common during warmer months and less common during the colder months when the ground is frozen. Tetanus enters the body through a wound, most commonly in cattle via a castration site or umbilical location of a newborn calf.

History

Tetanus is one of the earliest recognized diseases and was known and described by Hippocrates in the 6th century B.C. (Gibbons et. al, 1970) In 1844 scientist were able to produce tetanus in a rabbit. They had taken material from a human that died from the disease and injected into the rabbit. (Jensen et. al, 1973) Soon after the disease was produced in guinea pigs, mice and rats, this was accomplished by inoculating them with garden soil. (Gibbons et. al, 1970) It was not until 1889 that Clostridium tetani was cultured.

Etiology

Clostridium tetani is gram-positive, anaerobic bacteria that have poor motility and the ability to bear spores. The spores are strongly resistant to heat, light and drying and may survive in soil and feces for months to years. When the spores are allowed to be in contact with direc...

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...g the skin. Vaccinations that protect against Clostridium tetani are also available.

Treatment

Without treatment the affected cattle may die in three to ten days and even so the mortality rate it sixty percent. In order to treat these animals they must be tranquilized. Penicillin or another antibiotic must be administered to halt bacterial multiplication and production on toxins. (Thomas et. al, 2009) Since the animals muscles will be in spasm and very rigid they will be unable to eat or drink, treatment must also include means of supportive care. This may be accomplished by giving intravenous fluids or force feeding via stomach tube. The supportive treatment must be maintained until the signs of muscle spasms have diminished and the animal regains control over its body. This may take as long as one to four weeks. (Thomas et. al, 2009)

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