Tetanus Vaccines

I’m actually sitting in a doctor’s office. For me, This hasn’t happened in years. I know because I called my primary care physician, and her office had dropped me from the patient list.

I’m here to get a tetanus booster. I’m going on a veterinary mission trip to the hurricane ravaged areas of south Haiti in just 3 weeks. I’ll also need a prescription for anti-malaria medication. But I wanted to talk about tetanus, and why it’s important for both people and farm animals. Tetanus is an ever present risk for people, horses, cattle, sheep, and goats. It is caused by a bacteria that lives in the soil, or any rusty, dirty surface. This bacteria is known as Clostridium and can live for years in the environment. It is an anaerobic bacteria, which means it only likes oxygen-free places. This is why everyone asks about tetanus vaccinations when you have a puncture wound.

That Clostridium bacteria is potentially on every outdoor surface. Once there is a wound, and the bacteria is introduced, if wound closes over (like a puncture), the bacteria becomes active in that low-oxygen environment. It begins to produce a neurotoxin that poisons the nervous system.

Common signs of tetanus are rigid, stiff muscles, 3rd eyelid prolapse (that inside pink eyelid pops up), and increased body temperature. About 80% of infected animals will die.

All animals can develop a tetanus infection, but humans, horses, cattle, sheep, and goats are much more susceptible to systemic disease.

Tetanus vaccines are relatively inexpensive and easy to administer. So go double check your farm animals to be sure you are vaccinating the ones that are at risk.   And don’t forget yourself and your family members!

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