Health officials: If you've been in flood water, get a tetanus shot

June 07, 2019 - 4:46 am
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The Jackson County Health Department is recommending people to get their tetanus shots if they have been in contact with flood water.

This goes for flood victims and the volunteers who have been working in the high water.

Flood water carries all sorts of viruses and bacteria that can cause multiple diseases, said Dr. Dana Hawkinson, infectious disease physician with The University of Kansas Health System.

"Open wounds can get infected, especially if you're just standing in open flood waters," Hawkinson said.

Tetanus is bacterial and leads to painful muscle contractions, particularly with the jaw and neck muscles, hence its nickname "lockjaw." The disease can interfere with the victim's ability to breath and can be life-threatening. 

"It would still be a good idea to go ahead and get the vaccine, if you've been exposed, especially if you don't know your vaccine status, if you've not had it in the past eight years," Hawkinson said.

Floods can also sewage backups, leading to e-coli and other bacteria than can cause diarrhea illnesses. 

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