Tetanus is a condition caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, a cousin of the bacteria that cause gangrene and botulism. It remains a serious worldwide public health problem, killing over 500,000 people each year.
In developed countries, however, the introduction of a vaccine in the 1950s has all but eradicated this disease. The cases of tetanus that do occur are often seen in those who either have not been vaccinated or have failed to keep their immunizations up to date, as protection from the vaccine declines over time.
Canada now averages about 4 cases a year. Only 5 people have died of tetanus in this country since 1980.