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Adults Need Tetanus Boosters Every 10 Years

According to the CDC, only 57.2% of adults are protected against tetanus.  It drops to only 44.1% for those over age 65.  This is surprising given the high fatality rate for the disease and the prevalence of the C. tetani bacteria in the environment.

The tetani bacteria produce spores that are very difficult to kill and are found in the soil and intestines and *** of horses, sheep, cattle, dogs, cats, rats, guinea pigs, and chickens.  The likelihood of tetanus is greatest following deep, dirty puncture wounds where there is little bleeding and an absence of oxygen.  But tetanus has also occurred following other injuries such as burns, scratches, slivers, animal bites, body piercing, and tattooing.  In recent years, minor wounds have caused more cases of tetanus than major wounds.  This is probably because more severe wounds are better managed. 

Almsot all reported cases of tetanus are in persons who either have never been vaccinated or who have not had a booster shot in the preceding 10 years.  The disease is fatal in about 18% of cases in people over age 60.  One or two cases are reported in Wisconsin each year.

So, when was your last booster?  If you have no idea, it is probably time for a tetanus shot.  Otherwise, check your medical records to be sure you are still protected.  A booster is recommended every 10 years -- after 5 if you suffer an injury.  The vaccine also protects against diphtheria, a rare but also dangerous disease.

The CDC recommends that everyone get a single booster dose of Tdap which protects against pertussis (whooping cough) in addition to tetanus and diphtheria.  The vaccine was developed after several pertussis outbreaks in recent years.  You can get this booster if it has been at least two years since your last tetanus shot.  This vaccine is particularly recommended for those who are in frequent contact with infants and children.

Both regular tetanus and Tdap vaccines are available at the Health Department.  The charge for adults is $15.00.  Call 371-2980 to schedule an appointment. 

For additional information about tetanus, visit:

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