The Ulster County Department of Health (UCDOH) made Tetanus vaccinations available for all local workers involved in the efforts of cleaning up after Tropical Storm Irene.
According to the UCDOH, Tetanus can be transmitted on storm debris through open cuts and puncture wounds. Tetanus is an infection of the nervous system occurring when spores of the bacteria C. tetani, found living in the soil, enter the body.
“Tetanus, commonly called lockjaw, is a serious bacterial disease that affects muscles and nerves. It is characterized by muscle stiffness that usually involves the jaw and neck that then progresses to involve other parts of the body,” said the New York State Department of Health website, “Death can result from severe breathing difficulties or heart abnormalities.”
The state health department also said that a common first sign of Tetanus is muscular stiffness in the jaw and the neck, difficulty in swallowing, rigidity of muscles, spasms, sweating and fever.
The incubation period for the virus is usually about eight days after the bacteria enters the body; shorter incubation periods are associated with more heavily contaminated wounds. Death is a risk in about 11 percent of Tetanus cases, particularly in persons who are over the age of 60 or unvaccinated.
The UCDOH said they recommended getting the vaccination as a “sensible precautionary measure.”
The free vaccines are available by appointment at county health clinics, as well as being offered at various clinics held at UCDOH locations in Kingston, Ellenville, New Paltz and Saugerties.