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Tetanus Still Diagnosed in U.S., Although It's Preventable

THURSDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- While a tetanus shot can shield Americans from the potentially fatal infection, sporadic cases do still occur among those who went unvaccinated, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

Tetanus is a rare but potentially deadly disease caused by the toxin of Clostridium tetani bacteria, which is found in soil and animal excrement. Since 1947, reported cases of tetanus in the United States have fallen more than 95 percent, and tetanus deaths have decreased 99 percent, according to the study.

Nevertheless, according to data from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, there were 233 cases of tetanus (lockjaw) reported in the United States between 2001 and 2008. The death rate was 13.2 percent in the 197 cases with known outcomes, the CDC said.

The risk of death was highest among people older than 65, diabetics, and those who hadn't been vaccinated or didn't have up-to-date vaccinations, said the researchers.

"Sporadic cases in adults still occur, especially in those not vaccinated during childhood," the researchers said.

Vaccination can prevent tetanus, and health care providers should ensure that all their patients, especially those older than 65 and those with diabetes, have up-to-date vaccinations, the researchers said.

A complete vaccine series should be given to children at ages 2, 4, 6, 18 months and at 4 to 6 years. A booster dose is needed when children are 11 to 12 years old and every 10 years after that, said the study authors.

The findings appear in the April 1 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

More information

The Immunization Action Coalition has more about tetanus.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, March 31, 2011

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