At the beginning of the 20th century, worldwide life expectancy was less than 40 years of age. Today the world average stands at around 70. The single biggest reason for this miraculous leap in longevity has been our ability to cure diseases. Vaccines, antibiotics and advances in medical technology have changed the game. We are still in an arms race against many diseases, but we stand at a unique period in human history where it's possible to imagine a day when we have conquered disease.
Though most commonly associated with rust and infections caused by rusty nails, tetanus is actually not caused by rust itself. Rather, tetanus comes from the bacterium Clostridium tetani
, the spores for which can often be found on rusty surfaces. The disease is characterized by painful muscle spasms, most often in the jaw (thus the term "lockjaw").
Luckily, the disease can be prevented with regular vaccination. In places where regular tetanus shots are given, such as in the United States, the disease has been nearly eliminated. According to the CDC, only 233 cases of tetanus were reported in the United States between 2001 and 2008, mostly the fault of people late to get their scheduled booster shot.