Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tetanus!

Since tetanus is one of the most misunderstood of the "vaccine preventable" diseases I thought that I would record my research about it here.

  • Tetanus is unique in that it is not communicable, therefore "herd immunity" does not apply. 
  • Though tetanus is caused by the Clostridium tetani bacteria, that bacteria is oddly found in only 30% of tetanus cases. 
  • The tetanus bacteria is found literally everywhere: in the soil, on your skin, in your mouth & gut. 
  • The tetanus bacteria itself is harmless, it is the toxins it produces under anaerobic conditions that cause the problem. 
  • Most people associate tetanus with rusty nails or deep puncture wounds, yet tetanus has been diagnosed with ear infections, tonsillitis, appendicitis and even in people with no obvious wound or point of entry at all.
  • There are actually 5 kinds of tetanus
  1. Subacute tetanus which is characterized by some degree of neck stiffness involving the muscles at the back of the neck; spasticity, as well as increased muscle stretch reflexes, especially in the lower limbs.
  2. Local tetanus where the contractions of the muscles are only in the area of the injury. These contractions can persist for weeks. Though rare one of our children had this form years ago, that's when I first learned the what we think tetanus looks like is actually not always the case.
  3. Cephalic tetanus: a very rare form which occurs with burst ear drums or after dental work. Again, the key is proper wound management. 
  4. Generalized tetanus, this accounts for 80% of cases. The symptoms begin at the head and work down. Reflex spasms occur within 24-72 hours. Patient will have a hard time opening their mouth (hence "lockjaw") they'll have a stiff neck and difficulty swallowing. 
  5. Neonatal tetanus: this form was eliminated from developed countries both vaccines and antibiotics were invented.
  • Some studies have shown that substantial proportions of unimmunized populations show detectable levels of antitoxin suggesting naturally occurring immunity. 
  • Tetanus via injury does *not* seem to result in immunity, rather, ingesting tetanus spores which appears to stimulate the immune system in the appropriate way. 
  • in 1973 there were 1 million tetanus deaths, 60-90% in newborns. The obvious answer to combating tetanus is safer birth practices, not immunizations. 
  • As of August, 2012 there have been 22,143 adverse reaction from the tetanus vaccine reported to VAERS (estimates say that only 10% of reactions get reported at all).
  • U.S. studies have shown that 2 month old babies have protective levels of tetanus antitoxin in their blood, this is before any immunizations have been given. 
  • Toxic ingredients in the DT shot: aluminum sulfate, thimerosol, formaldehyde.

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