A 22-month-old toddler is in a stable condition in hospital following the first confirmed case of tetanus in a South Australian child in 17 years.


SA Health’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paddy Phillips is urging parents to make sure their children are fully vaccinated against tetanus and other diseases.

“Sadly, we have been notified of the first tetanus case in South Australia since 2013 and the first case we have seen in a child since 2000,” Professor Phillips said.

“Tetanus is an uncommon but very serious disease that can be fatal, particularly in infants and the elderly, but there is an effective vaccine that is part of the National Immunisation Program.

“I urge all parents to make sure their children receive the full course of childhood vaccines at the recommended times to prevent potentially deadly diseases like tetanus.”

The diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccination is given to children at six weeks, four months and six months, with booster doses at 18 months, four years, and in year 8 as part of the National Immunisation Program.

Professor Phillips said vaccination is the best protection against a wide range of preventable diseases.

“Childhood vaccinations are particularly vital as children are more susceptible to illness and early immunisation can prevent deaths in childhood as well as disease and disability later in life,” Professor Phillips said.

“Some people have concerns about vaccination, but they should be reassured that the risk from getting a disease far outweighs the risk from immunising against it.

“I encourage all parents to visit their GP to ensure their children are appropriately vaccinated for their age.”

Tetanus is not transmitted person to person but rather caused by bacteria found in soil and human and animal faeces entering the body through cuts and open wounds.

Symptoms include painful muscle spasms, initially of the muscles of the neck and jaw (lockjaw), and later of torso muscles.

This is the third case of tetanus in South Australia since 2007.