Spring will truly be here someday soon! People will be doing home projects, yard work, and gardening. They will be out with their pets. As the temperature gets even warmer, shoes and socks will come off. Everyone will be enjoying the seasons of spring and summer. They will also be increasing their risk of exposure to the disease of tetanus, commonly known as lockjaw.
Tetanus is caused by a poison that is produced by bacteria and attacks the nervous system. The bacteria live in the soil and enter the body through a break in the skin. Most people associate tetanus with rusty nails and puncture wounds. However, it can also be caused by animal scratches and bites, splinters, bug bites, burns, cuts and scrapes, etc. It is not transferred from person to person.
Although there are under fifty cases of tetanus in the U.S. every year, almost all of them occur in people who have not been vaccinated or who have not had a booster immunization in the past ten years. There was an 18% fatality rate in the U.S. from 1998-2000. Most deaths occur in people over 60 years of age. Unfortunately, less than fifty percent of the adult population is current with tetanus booster shots which are needed every ten years for life. If there is an injury after five years, evaluation for a booster shot is recommended as soon as possible. Infants and children are protected from tetanus by their "baby shots" if they have had the complete series.
It is very fortunate that tetanus can be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine. The tetanus vaccine also protects against diphtheria which is a dangerous respiratory infection. There is a new tetanus vaccine available for adults that includes protection against pertussis (whooping cough), another potentially dangerous respiratory infection. This vaccine was developed after frequent outbreaks of pertussis in the adolescent/adult population over the past several years. It is recommended that every adult under the age of 65 get one dose of the tetanus vaccine that includes pertussis.
Tetanus vaccine for adults is available at the North Shore Health Department for a cost of $15.00. You can attend one of three monthly clinics or schedule an appointment if the clinics are not convenient. Contact us at 371-2980.
You will be ready for spring only after you have checked your immunization record and received a tetanus booster if one is needed. Then you can really enjoy the outdoors knowing you are protected against tetanus.
Check out these websites for more information about tetanus: