Tetanus is a terrible illness, caused by a bacterial toxin, that affects the nervous system. And even despite vaccinations to prevent many cases nowadays, tetanus is still responsible for up to nearly 300,000 fatalities a year, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Sufferers can also catch the disease from an array of factors that many of us are probably completely unaware of.
It’s likely, of course, that lots of people grew up being warned about the dangers of playing outside as youngsters. The great outdoors are, after all, battlefields potentially filled with broken glass, rusty nails and dog poop. Well, that’s what adults would often have their offspring believe. Yet it’s true that contact with any of these things could potentially lead to a devastating illness: tetanus.
Interestingly, tetanus has actually been around for thousands of years – but exactly how long is not known. That’s because the infection doesn’t leave any telltale evidence on skeletons to indicate its presence. We do know from historical evidence, however, that the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates knew of tetanus. In fact, the name tetanus even stems from his language.