The first pediatric case of tetanus in over 30 years took place in Oregon, according to a case study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The unidentified 6-year-old boy cut his forehead while playing outdoors at a farm, and started exhibiting tell-tale signs of tetanus six days later.
The boy was immediately airlifted to a pediatric medical facility after his parents contacted the emergency services. The report noted that the boy was alert and requested water, but was unable to open his mouth.
The child had never received any vaccines, and was immediately given an initial dose of the DTaP vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.
Judith Guzman-Cottrill, a pediatrics professor at Oregon Health & Science University, and a co-author of the report, told The Washington Post that the emergency department physicians immediately recognized the symptoms of severe tetanus. They had previously all read about it and seen pictures of people suffering from tetanus, but not seen a child diagnosed with it.
It’s an infection caused by the Clostridium tetani bacteria that enters the body through a wound, and the toxin of the bacteria causes muscle spasms, often in the neck and jaw. It can be very difficult for people to open their mouth or swallow once their muscles lock.
The boy spent 47 days in the intensive care unit, and received care for 57 days. He was able to sip clear liquids only after 44 days of receiving care, and he was able to walk on his own after 50 days.
The case was the first one of pediatric tetanus in Oregon in over 30 years, and it resulted in $800,000 in inpatient charges. The report said that the boy’s parents refused further vaccinations at the end of the ordeal before taking him home.
The report comes at a time when there are multiple outbreaks of measles, another disease that can easily be prevented with a common vaccine.