Now, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released details about an unvaccinated boy who contracted tetanus.
An unvaccinated OR boy who spent eight weeks in intensive care and nearly died after contracting tetanus was cared for by a medical team of more than 100 people.
A 6-year-old boy in OR fell down while playing on a farm and cut his forehead-and if he'd had his standard childhood shots, you wouldn't be reading about him. The same day, he started having trouble breathing, at which point his parents contacted emergency medical services, who quickly air-lifted him to a pediatric medical center.
The child would have jaw muscle spasms upon arriving at the hospital and couldn't open his mouth to ingest water. A tube was placed down his windpipe and he was hooked up to a machine that helped his breathing.
After the incident, the child was "cleaned and sutured at home".
Case study co-author Dr. Carl Eriksson, an assistant professor of pediatric critical care at Oregon Health & Science University, who was involved in the boy's treatment, wrote in an email to TIME that severe tetanus cases are very rare in the USA, where vaccination effectively prevents such conditions.
During his treatment, the child's neck and back arching worsened, he developed hypertension or high blood pressure, and his body temperature soared to 40.5 C. The average body temperature is between 36 and 37 C. "We treated this patient in a darkened room and used earplugs to decrease visual and auditory stimulation, and tried to limit his pain and anxiety as much as possible, all in an effort to decrease his severe muscle spasms", Eriksson says. Five days into the boy's hospital stay, doctors resorted to using a tracheostomy. On day 44, he was finally removed from his ventilator and was able to sip clear liquids.
After spending 57 days in the hospital, the child was moved to a rehabilitation center where he regained the ability to walk, run and bike within 17 days.
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Luckily, the boy made a full recovery.
A month after inpatient rehabilitation, the boy was able to go back to his normal activities, including running and bicycling. The medical team subsequently sedated, intubated, and hooked him up to a mechanical ventilator.
Once the boy had recovered, his doctors recommended that he receive a follow-up shot to strengthen the dose of the vaccine he'd received in the hospital. The signs and symptoms of the infection manifest about three to 21 days after it has entered the body.
It was the first pediatric case of tetanus in the state in more than 30 years. Today, only about 30 cases are reported every year.
Doctors gave the child a diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP) during the course of his eight-weeks of treatment, which the CDC estimated to cost over $800,000. A great majority of young children and babies are sufficiently vaccinated.
Liberal-leaning OR and Washington have some of the nation's highest statewide vaccine exemption rates, driven in part by low vaccination levels in scattered communities and at some private and alternative schools.
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