Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, an advisor to the U.S. Metropolitan Medical Directors “Eagles” Coalition and an expert in the area of infectious diseases, has advised that there’s no need to routinely administer tetanus shots to those exposed to flood waters.
Dr. Osterholm notes that it’s a long standing myth that there’s an increased risk with such contact. The CDC recommendations further calcifies this issue.
In watching the news coverage of Hurricane Harvey, Dr. Osterholm has seen and heard healthcare providers, emergency responders and public health officials in the impacted areas repeating the myth about this risk and setting up vaccination programs or clinics.
In fact, in the presence of water (like flood water), the Clostridium tetani spores that enter the body with a puncture wound actually are likely to have already sporulated and pose less risk of causing tetanus than a dry puncture not associated with flooding and water.
Dr. Osterholm recommends the cessation of the routine tetanus shots ASAP, noting that all it will do is eat up precious healthcare and public health resources, cause lots of sore arms that need to be working, and frighten people about a condition for which they are not at increased risk.
For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control website.