Learn about importance of tetanus shots as flood concerns increase
GREELEY, Colo. (June 6, 2011) — With concerns growing over potential flooding this summer, people need to be aware of health risks related to tetanus, according to Banner Health physician Steven Kalt, MD.
Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is a disease that affects the body's muscles and nerves. It typically arises from a skin wound that becomes contaminated by a bacterium called Clostridium tetani. Wounds contaminated with soil, saliva, flood water, or feces are at risk for tetanus, especially if not properly cleaned.
Most people receive a shot in childhood that protects them from tetanus as well as two other diseases. This shot is called the DPT, and protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). After childhood a booster shot for tetanus is needed every 10 years.
Who should get this vaccine?
All people need protection against tetanus. You can’t always avoid the cuts and wounds that often occur during daily life. The tetanus bacteria can enter the body through these breaks in the skin and cause a very grave infection. For this reason, you need to keep your tetanus shots up to date.
Why is it important to have a tetanus shot with the potential for flooding?
Flood waters and sewer overflows can contain bacteria, fecal material, viruses and other organisms that may cause disease. The need for a tetanus vaccination after exposure to flood water depends on the presence of a wound, the condition of the wound and the likelihood the injured person is susceptible to tetanus.
People who suffer a wound and are exposed to flood waters should get a tetanus shot if it has been more than five years since their last tetanus booster shot. People who have not had a preliminary series of tetanus vaccines (a minimum of three doses) need to be vaccinated and given tetanus immune globulin as soon as possible. Adults need a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. Talk with your health care professional about the need for a tetanus shot.
Tetanus shots are available through physicians’ offices or the North Colorado Medical Center’s Community Wellness Department, (970) 350-6633.