Unvaccinated boy diagnosed with tetanus, hospitalized almost 2 months — CDC

Unvaccinated boy diagnosed with tetanus, hospitalized almost 2 months — CDC

Even though doctors reviewed the risks and benefits of tetanus vaccination with the boy's family, they still refused to give him a second dose of DTaP and other recommended immunizations, the report said.

It was the first time a child in OR had been diagnosed with rare disease in more than 30 years, according to a report on the case by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Thursday.

"When I read that, my jaw dropped. That's a tragedy and a misunderstanding and I'm just flabbergasted", said Dr. William Schaffner, an expert in infectious diseases and chair at the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.

Under Oregon law, parents may forgo vaccinations for philosophical reasons.

The paper did not provide any details about the child, his family or where they live in or and attempts to get that information from the paper's authors were unsuccessful. Seventy people in southwest Washington, a lot of them unvaccinated children, have been diagnosed with the highly contagious viral illness since January 1, as well as a handful of people in Portland, Oregon.

The health agency said people who contract tetanus aren't immune to it in the future. Schaffner says the bacterium that cause tetanus is "everywhere", including in soil, and vaccination is the only real protection.

The boy was playing outdoors when he got a cut on his forehead.

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The tetanus bacterium secretes a toxin that gets into the bloodstream and latches onto the nervous system. Other symptoms include stiff neck and abdominal muscles, difficulty swallowing, and painful, involuntary muscle spasms. It's rare among children; those over 65 are the most vulnerable. Following the incident, the laceration was "cleaned and sutured at home".

Six days after the OR boy got the cut, according to the CDC report, he had "episodes of crying, jaw clenching, and involuntary upper extremity muscle spasms", then had arching in his back and neck as well as more spasms. At that time, his parents called for emergency services and the child was airlifted to a local medical center. When he was first admitted to the hospital, he was alert - but couldn't open his mouth, the report said.

At the hospital, the boy was placed in a darkened room with minimal stimulation and given ear plugs because stimulation appeared to worsen his spasms. His fever spiked to nearly 105 degrees (40.5 Celsius) and he developed high blood pressure and a racing heartbeat. It's unclear from the report who covered his hospital expenses. Six days later, he was able to walk a short distance with help.

A month after inpatient rehabilitation, the boy was able to go back to his normal activities, including running and bicycling. The inpatient charges totaled $811,929 (excluding air transportation, inpatient rehabilitation, and ambulatory follow-up costs).

"The way to treat tetanus is you have to outlast it".

That was also around when both anti-tetanus immunoglobin and the tetanus vaccine became widely used, a practice that has led to a 95 percent decrease in tetanus cases and a 99 percent decrease in tetanus-related deaths since the 1940s, according to the CDC. The CDC also recommends that children be given five doses of the DTaP vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, at 15-18 months of age and at 4 to 6 years of age.

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