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Tetanus / Poliomyelitis / Diphtheria

Tetanus is a serious disease that is caused by bacteria found in soil entering the body through a cut or a wound. The bacteria can get in your body through:

  • cuts and grazes, particularly those caused by contaminated or rusty objects
  • burns
  • certain animal bites (such as farm animals)
  • medical procedures such as body piercing, tattoos and injections if the equipment isn’t clean
  • injecting contaminated drugs

Tetanus is found throughout the world. The bacteria can survive for a long time outside of the body and are commonly found in soil, manure of animals such as cows and horses, and on the surfaces of rusty tools such as nails, needles, and barbed wire.

Poliovirus only infects people and it is very contagious.

The virus lives in an infected person’s throat and intestines. It enters the body through the mouth and spreads through:

  • contact with the poo from an infected person
  • droplets from a cough or sneeze from an infected person, this is less common

You can become infected if you:

  • have poo on your hands and you touch your mouth
  • put objects in your mouth that are contaminated with the infected poo

Food and water can sometimes become contaminated with the poo from an infected person in areas where sanitation and personal hygiene are poor.

Polio mainly affects children. The virus can be prevented by vaccination, meaning that if every child in the world is vaccinated against polio, the virus could be completely eliminated.

Diphtheria is caused by a type of bacteria called Corynebacterium that make a toxin (poison). It is the toxin that can cause people to become sick.

The bacteria spread from person to person through respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The disease can also be spread if you touch a surface contaminated with infected respiratory secretions, or from direct contact with infected skin lesions (sores or ulcers), clothing or bed linen.

Diphtheria is rare in the UK because babies and children are routinely vaccinated against it. The disease remains a big problem in parts of Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, Russia, Central and South East Asia where vaccine coverage is low.



REVAXIS is the vaccine used in the UK to protect adults against polio. The vaccine is a combination vaccine which is also used to protect against diphtheria and tetanus diseases.


Infanrix hexaVaxelisBoostrix-IPVREPEVAX and REVAXIS are the vaccines used in the UK to protect children against tetanus. The vaccine used depends on the child’s age, but they are all combination vaccines which also protect against other diseases.

  • you can find out more information about when these vaccines are recommended in the UK vaccination schedule page



Tetanus / Poliomyelitis / Diphtheria