Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio

Get yourself protected against Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio with a DTP vaccine at one of our specialist travel clinics.

Learn more about Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio, and how you can stay safe on your travels.

The Vaccine

Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio are sometimes referred to as DTP, this is because there are no individual vaccines to prevent these illnesses in the UK just a combination of the 3. So if you need vaccinating against Tetanus, you also get topped up with Polio and Diphtheria at the same time. The most commonly used vaccine is called Revaxis.

The DTP vaccine is an inactivated vaccine (ie cannot cause the disease we are protecting you against) and is suitable for use in adults and children from 6 years and older. In the UK our childhood immunisation programme will provide five doses of tetanus, diphtheria and polio between birth and approximately 14 years of age. Once this course of jabs is complete protection will last for 10 years and requires just single doses of vaccine as a booster (when required).

We would always recommend that you start planning your travel health requirements 8 weeks before travel, however, we can usually accommodate last-minute travellers. Please phone one of our travel clinics to find out more and book an appointment. These diseases, explained in greater depth below, are more common in developing nations and tetanus infection is particularly relevant worldwide if hospital care is not readily available at your destination.

What side effects could I expect from the DTP vaccine?

As mentioned earlier Revaxis, the DTP vaccine is safe and effective; adverse events are infrequent. This means they cannot cause the disease that we are attempting to protect you against. In this respect, they are just like the flu vaccine which should also be considered a travel vaccine depending on the season you are travelling. Typical adverse events from the vaccine are usually limited to:

  • Injection site reactions like a sore arm or redness swelling or tenderness at the injection site
  • Low-grade fever (greater than 37.5C)
  • Fatigue and Tiredness

These symptoms will usually resolve within a few days and require only paracetamol or a cold compress (if swelling at the injection site) to manage them.

Can I get a DTP vaccine free from my doctor?

Yes. Vaccines against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) are offered for free on the NHS.

Unfortunately, only your GP surgery can provide the vaccine free of charge, not all surgeries provide travel services and you often need to give your surgery 8 weeks’ notice to get an appointment.

Our teams will always tell you what vaccines you can get free of charge on the NHS, but for your information, these are TyphoidTetanus / Diphtheria / Polio, Hepatitis A and Cholera

The Deep Dive – Learn more about Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio

Tetanus – What is it, How do I get it, and what are the symptoms

Tetanus is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani. Typically spores of this bacteria are found in our environment, for example in soil, ash, animal faeces/animal bites and on rusty metal surfaces like nails. Clostridium Tetani spores, (a small cellular unit that can give rise to new Clostridium bacteria) are very hardy and can survive extreme temperatures as well as most antiseptics. Whilst tetanus can affect anyone, the individuals at greatest risk are young children and pregnant mothers.

In many parts of the world tetanus infections are endemic, this is due to poor vaccine coverage, but strides are being made to lessen the disease burden with a 96% reduction in neonatal death since 1988.

Tetanus Symptoms

Typically symptoms of tetanus appear between 3-21 days after infection and can include jaw cramp (lockjaw), muscle spasms, difficulty swallowing, seizures, headaches and fevers.

Polio – What is it, How do I get it, and what are the symptoms

Polio (the short name of Poliomyelitis) is an infectious disease caused by the Polio virus. Polio is spread through the faecal-oral route and when ingested can rapidly cause paralysis. Polio typically affects children under 5 years of age.

In 1988 the Global Polo Eradication Initiative was launched. Since its inception, a 99% reduction in global cases has been achieved through routine polio vaccination. However, wild Poliovirus still circulates in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Figures from the WHO suggest that a failure to contain and eradicate these last few cases could lead to as many as 200,000 new cases every year within the next 10 years.

Polio Symptoms

The Poliovirus enters the body through the gut, rapidly multiplies and invades your body’s nervous system often resulting in total paralysis. Initial symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting and stiff limbs. 1 in 200 infections will cause paralysis, usually affecting the legs. 5-10% of these individuals die when their breathing muscles become immobilised.

Diphtheria – What is it, How do I get it, and what are the symptoms

Diphtheria is an infection caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheria.

The once common infection is spread through coughs and sneezes (droplet transmission) and can rapidly cause death in unvaccinated individuals. The disease is not strictly limited to droplet transmission but can also be spread via direct contact with infected wounds or lesions, the cutaneous route. Thankfully this nasty disease is now rare in most developed nations but is still prevalent in tropical regions of the world and often affects poor inner-city inhabitants.

Diphtheria Symptoms

Some individuals infected with Diptheria will experience no symptoms but instead will carry the bacteria and infect others. Those who do develop symptoms typically start with a mild flu-like illness. This can then develop into a more severe form where a dense grey membrane forms around components of the respiratory system leading to a swollen “bull’s neck”.