An unvaccinated 6-year-old Oregon boy was hospitalized for two months after he contracted tetanus following an injury on a farm, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in treatment to save his life.
The report, issued from the Centers for Disease Control, says that the tetanus case is the first pediatric case in the state in almost 30 years.
According to the report, in 2017 the child sustained an injury to his forehead while playing outside. Following the incident, the laceration was “cleaned and sutured at home.”
Six days later, the child was suffering from muscle spasms, jaw clenching and difficulty breathing. At that time, his parents called for emergency services and the child was airlifted to a local medical center. Despite being given treatment, on his fifth day in the hospital the child required a tracheal tube and to be placed on a ventilator as he experienced spasms in his diaphragm and larynx.
According to the report, the child remained on a ventilator and a neuromuscular blocker for over a month. He also spent time “in a darkened room with ear plugs and minimal stimulation” as light and loud noise generated more spasms. He was also treated with metronidazole and other antibiotics through an IV to help regulate blood pressure and heart rate and fight off a severe fever.
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.
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. However, the estimate does not include the cost of air transportation, inpatient rehabilitation and the use of an ambulance, the report says.
Despite the recommendation of doctors, the child’s parents refused a second dose of the DTaP vaccination and other vaccines.
The CDC report says tetanus vaccines have contributed to a” 95 percent decline in the number of tetanus cases and a 99 percent decrease in the number of tetanus-related deaths since the 1940s.” The CDC also recommends that children be given five doses of the DTaP vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, at 15–18 months of age and at 4 to 6 years of age.
Additional booster doses are recommended every 10 years throughout life.
Under Oregon law, parents may forgo vaccinations for philosophical reasons. A similar law in Washington state has led to a measles outbreak that has sickened at least 75 people, most of them unvaccinated children.
Oregon lawmakers are currently debating a bill that would remove all but exemptions issued for medical reasons and require children be fully vaccinated in order to attend school.
St. Luke’s Work Well Clinic Medical Assistant Crissy Parmeter gives a tetanus shot to an Iowa resident at the St. Luke’s Work Well Clinic June 16, 2008 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The clinic has given away 2,000 shots since Friday afternoon and will continue to offer the shots until further notice. Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images