Thursday, March 06, 2008

Tetanus: A Primer...and a Warning

A tetanus shot? Say wha?

I say this with a quivering lip: I will be spending my morning at the health department. With the pregnant teenagers. With the under-insured. With other people who need tetanus shots and are too cheap/broke to go anywhere else. Like myself.

I am heading to the Great Outdoors for a weekend event sponsored by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), and among the requirements to participate is immunity from tetanus. And this begs a couple of questions: How many rusty nails will I be exposed to? How many fishing hooks will threaten my eyelids? Am I in real danger? Which is worse -- the shot or tetanus? Well, that depends. What exactly is tetanus?

According to Tetanus occurs when a wound is not properly cleaned and the germ is trapped in the wound and cut off from oxygen. Typically this would be a puncture wound where the skin would close up quickly leaving infection underneath as with a rusty nail. Wounds that bleed will never result in tetanus because the tetanus bacillus is anaerobic. Information taken from the insert from the pharmaceutical company who manufactures the drug states, “This is primarily a disease of older adults.” Newborns typically are not in danger of being punctured by a rusty nail. Neonatal Tetanus occurs among babies born under unhygienic conditions.
The following information is written by Dr. Sherri Tennpenny:
Tetanus is a disease caused by the Gram -- positive bacterium Clostridium tetani (see photo -- looks like day-glo Good & Plenty candies) that exists in soil as a spore. High concentrations can be present if the soil has been contaminated with animal or human feces. In the presence of anaerobic (low oxygen) conditions, the spores can germinate and release a potent neurotoxin, called tetanospasmin, into the bloodstream. Dirty, deep puncture wounds that are contaminated with soil are at greatest risk for infection. Wounds that are gangrenous, or injuries caused by frostbite, crush injuries, and burns are also at increased risk.

Whoa! Shouldn't someone clean up the soil? Maybe tell people to use the bathroom instead of the woods? What the hay kind of weekend am I in for? A tetanus-free one, for sure!

(Dirty soil and all, I couldn't live anywhere else. And a little shameless promotion here: Look for my article about all the cool things I will have learned this weekend, the ADCNR and Alabama's Great Outdoors in Thicket this fall.)

Read more about tetanus shots and other events of the past week in Friday Round-Up. On Friday.