If you've been exposed to flood waters, it might be time for a tetanus shot

Rebecca Crockett
June 07, 2019 - 5:00 am

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Kansas City, MO - The flooding problem doesn't seem to be going away and whether you're a victim of the flooding or a volunteer that's been exposed to the water, Jackson County health officials are warning people to get their tetanus shots. Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease physician with The University of Kansas Health System, says with flood waters, the risk of disease goes up. 

"Which can be caused by any number of bacteria, or viruses, or parasites can occur. Also, open wounds can get infected, especially if you're just standing in open flood waters," explains Dr. Hawkinson. 

Tetanus, also known as lock jaw, is caused by a bacteria that leads to painful muscle contractions, particularly with your jaw and neck muscles, but that's not the only risk. Flooding can also cause sewage backups, leading to e-coli and other bacteria than can cause diarrhea illnesses.

Dr. Hawkinson suggests practicing good hygiene by washing with soap and water, and keeping the exposed area clean and dry.

He advises, "It would still be a good idea to go ahead and get the (tetanus) vaccine if you've been exposed. Especially if you don't know you're vaccine status or if you have not had it in the past eight years." 

Although it may take up to 3 weeks for immunity to take effect, the shot can still help even if you’ve already been exposed to any infectious diseases.

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