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Give your Tetanus Shot A Boost

One-third of tetanus cases are from gardening injuries?

even minor scrapes put gardeners at risk

Gardening, yard work and landscape injuries can be as simple as a scrape or as severe as a deep puncture wound, but any that break the skin can leave people at risk for tetanus, a serious and potentially fatal bacterial disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost one-third of reported tetanus cases come from gardening or farming injuries. The tetanus booster shot is an effective means of prevention and should be administered every 10 years.

?If you can?t remember the last time you had a tetanus shot, it?s probably time to get the booster,? said Kay Renny, manager of community programs for Visiting Nurse Association of Southeast Michigan. ?Most people think of tetanus when they step on a rusty nail, but a deep puncture wound from a thorn can be just as dangerous.?

Tetanus, commonly called ?lockjaw? is a bacterial disease that affects the nervous system. An infection can occur with even the tiniest break in the skin. Tetanus bacteria are present worldwide and are commonly found in soil, dust and manure. The first signs of a tetanus infection include headache and muscle spasms of the jaw. As the disease progresses, convulsions spread and can be severe enough to break bones. Three out of 10 people diagnosed with tetanus die from it. Almost all deaths are in persons age 40 and older.

Five of the most common injuries that put gardeners at risk are lawnmower accidents, falls from a ladder, chainsaw injuries, splinters and deep puncture wounds from thorns and brambles.

Tetanus immunizations are readily available. Visiting Nurse Association of Southeast Michigan offers the booster shot for $20 per immunization by individual appointment or can provide on site clinics to immunize members of gardening organizations. Call (800) 882-5720, ext. 8755 or 248-967-8755 for more information.


Tetanus (Lockjaw) is a serious bacterial disease that affects the nervous system. Tetanus is caused by Clostridium tetani—bacteria that produce a toxin. Bacteria may enter the body through a puncture wound contaminated with soil, street dust or feces; lacerations, burns and trivial or unnoticed wounds; injecting contaminated street drugs; or occasionally after a surgical procedure. Tetanus is not contagious. Symptoms may be limited to painful muscular spasms and contractions in the affected extremity but may also include seizures and severe breathing difficulties. Complications may lead to hospitalization and even death. However, generalized tetanus is more common, with spasms beginning in the jaw muscles and progressing to muscle spasms in the neck, body, limbs, respiratory system, and pharynx.

Diphtheria is a highly contagious bacterial disease that primarily affects the throat area; and occasionally other mucous membranes, skin, conjunctivae or vagina. Diphtheria is caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The disease is spread when infected people release the toxin into the air through sneezing, coughing or a droplet infection and when others use objects from diphtheria-infected people, such as eating utensils, towels, and handkerchiefs. The toxins create changes on the affected surface resulting in a membrane-like covering to form. Complications include breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure and even death. Healthy people not experiencing symptoms may harbor the bacteria and infect others. People who have recovered from acute diphtheria may harbor the bacteria in their throats for two to four weeks (these people are carriers).

Who should receive the Tetanus and Diphtheria vaccine? Any one who has completed the primary immunizing course and has not received a booster in the last 10 years.

The vaccine - Tetanus and Diphtheria can be prevented with a safe, effective and generally well-tolerated vaccine. The vaccine contains detoxified bacteria. An individual will not contract Tetanus or Diphtheria from the vaccine. The Center for Disease Control reports protection should last for at least 10 years. The vaccine does not eliminate carriage of Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends the use of the combined toxoids vaccine rather than single component vaccines for both primary and booster injections.

Risks and reactions - The most common side effects of the vaccine were soreness in the arm where the shot was given, redness and or firmness at the site all which occurred within 3 days of the vaccination. Most side effects were considered mild and did not last for more than 24 hours; however, there is a potential risk of adverse and anaphylactic reactions, including death. You cannot contract Tetanus or Diphtheria from the vaccine.
Tetanus toxoid reaction, arm of patient.