Do you know your risk of tetanus as a gardener?
NATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASES
Many gardeners are unaware that they face an increased risk for tetanus, a potentially fatal disease caused by bacteria found in dirt, potting soil and manure. According to the 2004 National Gardening Survey, 80 percent of gardeners say that they get cuts and scrapes while working around the yard, garden or home -- which is how tetanus enters the bloodstream.
The survey also revealed a general lack of protection among gardeners, with more than 40 percent reporting that they are not vaccinated against tetanus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a combined booster vaccine known as "Td" once every 10 years to protect against tetanus and diptheria, another infectious disease.
"Every time you work in the dirt you expose yourself to tetanus -- so it is important to get your Td booster shot before you dig in," urges National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) Medical Director Susan Rehm, MD. "Call your doctor today to see if you are due for your 10-year Td vaccine."
According to Dr. Rehm, tetanus is a very painful disease, and can prove challenging to diagnose. In one recent case, a gardener apparently developed a tetanus infection from a bite from a fire ant -- but it took more than two weeks after symptoms began before this woman learned she had tetanus.
During this time, and for several weeks more, this woman was hospitalized, and required a tube to help her breath. Among her symptoms, she suffered from severe muscle spasms in her mouth and throat, commonly known as "lockjaw." This patient was fortunate to survive her bout with tetanus -- as many as 20 percent of tetanus cases result in death. The disease is especially deadly in unimmunized persons or those who have not stayed up-to-date on their Td booster.
To learn more about tetanus and diptheria, or to take a quiz to assess your tetanus risk, visit the NFID's web site: http://www.nfid.org