Health and Family Services Cabinet
Tetanus Vaccine Available for Injured Flood Victims
Knowledge of Vaccine History is Extremely Important
Due to flooding in areas of Eastern Kentucky and subsequent cleanup work that has exposed people to potential health hazards, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) wants flood victims to be aware they may need a tetanus vaccine.
Four combination vaccines are used to prevent diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis: DTaP, Tdap, DT, and Td. Two of these (DTaP and DT) are given to children younger than 7 years of age, and two (Tdap and Td) are given to older children and adults. The adult booster is available through local health departments and most private health care providers.
“While everyone in flooded areas does not need a tetanus booster, those with exposed wounds who have contact with flood waters should seek medical attention for an evaluation,” said William Hacker, M.D., DPH commissioner. “If you fall into this category and it has been more than five years since your last tetanus booster, call your local health department or health care provider. If you don’t know your vaccine history, it is extremely important you find out when your last tetanus booster was received before getting another one.”
DPH stresses that just being exposed to flood waters does not mean you should get a tetanus vaccination. However, those who have exposed wounds (nail punctures, cuts, etc.) and have been in flood waters should be evaluated by their health care provider if it has been more than five years since their last tetanus vaccination.
Tetanus is a disease of the nervous system caused by bacteria that enter the body through a break in the skin. Early symptoms include lockjaw, stiffness in the neck and abdomen and difficulty swallowing, followed by severe muscle spasms, seizure, and severe autonomic nervous system disorders. The disease can be deadly, particularly among elderly people.
“After a flood, numerous health and hygiene issues abound,” said Hacker. “Always remember simple public health practices, such as the importance of washing your hands with soap and clean, running water, especially before work breaks, meal breaks, and at the end of the work shift. Assume that waters in flooded and surrounded areas are not safe unless local or state authorities have declared them to be.”