Tetanus is a condition of the nervous system caused by exposure to certain bacteria commonly found in everyday substances like soil and the dust in your home. The toxin is extraordinarily potent and can cause extended muscle contractions, such as lockjaw, which most are familiar with in the context of tetanus.
To ward off tetanus, infants typically receive the DTaP vaccine, which stands for diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (more commonly known as whooping cough). This vaccine is given at various intervals during the first two years of life, and then a booster vaccination, known as the Tdap vaccine, is given when the child is 11 of 12 years old.
Adults are typically recommended to get a single Tdap booster if they have not had tetanus immunization within the last 10 years, although there is some evidence that the immunization from tetanus remains effective for longer periods of time.
Thankfully because of widespread tetanus vaccinations, there are only about 30 reported cases of tetanus each year in the United States.