As clean-up efforts are underway across the state following significant flooding, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health is reminding residents to check their immunization status to ensure they are protected against tetanus, in addition to protecting existing wounds from infection.
“Tetanus is a disease contracted by getting the tetanus bacteria into an open cut or wound,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health. “Although tetanus is rare, it can be very serious or even fatal.”
Tetanus is preventable by making sure a person is up to date on their tetanus immunization. This is done by getting a tetanus booster every 10 years. Tetanus booster vaccine is now typically combined with diphtheria and pertussis vaccines known as “Tdap” to provide protection against all three diseases. Unless previously vaccinated with the same, Tdap is the recommended vaccine for persons 7 years of age and older. Td (tetanus and diphtheria) is recommended for booster doses for persons 7 years and older who have previously received a dose of Tdap. For persons with a wound that has been exposed to flood water, the recommended interval between doses of tetanus-containing vaccine should be shortened from 10 years to 5 years.
It is vitally important for medical providers to thoroughly screen persons when evaluating their need for tetanus-containing vaccine.
In addition to immunization, it is important to remember that open wounds and rashes exposed to flood waters can become infected. To protect yourself and your family:
• Avoid exposure to flood waters if you have an open wound.
• Cover open wounds with a waterproof bandage.
• Keep open wounds as clean as possible by washing well with soap and clean water.
• If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.
For more information about tetanus vaccine visit www.immunization.wv.gov or contact your local health department.