This case was particularly worrying for disease prevention experts not only in OR, but across the country, as tetanus has remained more OR less unheard of since vaccines were made available to everyone back in the 1940s.
"We had a hard time taking care of this child - watching him suffer - and it is a preventable disease", Guzman-Cottrill said. I could not believe it.
A nurse holds a tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough vaccine in 2016.
Despite the reported dangers, the anti-vaxx movement has managed to get through to many people throughout the U.S. The recent measles outbreaks in the Pacific Northwest have been credited, largely, to anti-vaxxers.
Doctors say tetanus is one of the more deadly diseases that vaccines prevent. Unlike viruses, tetanus isn't spread through person-to-person contact, so there's no herd immunity. Tetanus is caused by bacteria found in dirt that can enter the body through breaks in the skin, and vaccines are the best way to prevent it, per the CDC.
Tetanus spores exist everywhere in the soil.
The tetanus bacterium secretes a toxin that gets into the bloodstream and latches onto the nervous system. Other symptoms include stiff neck and abdominal muscles, difficulty swallowing, and painful, involuntary muscle spasms. In fact, since the 1940s and the advent of the tetanus vaccine and wound management techniques, the United States has experienced a 95 percent decline in the number of tetanus cases and a 99 percent decrease in tetanus-related deaths. It's rare among children; those over 65 are the most vulnerable.
It began in 2017, when the boy cut his forehead while playing outside. The wound was cleaned and stitched up at home, but six days later, the boy's jaw began to clench and his muscles started spasming uncontrollably. His parents were forced to call emergency medical services, who immediately transported the sick boy to a pediatric hospital.
During his treatment, the child's neck and back arching worsened, he developed hypertension or high blood pressure, and his body temperature soared to 40.5 C. The average body temperature is between 36 and 37 C.
The report said the costs to treat the boy were 72 times the average cost of a pediatric hospital stay in the USA, which is $11,143.
Upon admission, the boy was still conscious and asked for water, but the "lockjaw" of tetanus rendered him unable to open his mouth.
The child was sedated, put on a ventilator and cared for in a darkened room while wearing ear plugs because any stimulation made his pain and muscle spasms worse. He was able to walk 20 feet, with help, after 50 days. A month after he was released from care, the boy was back to running and biking. But his family was hit with an $811,929 hospital bill, "excluding air transportation, inpatient rehabilitation, and ambulatory follow-up costs". "You have to support the patient because this poison links on chemically and then it has to be slowly metabolized", Schaffner said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a case study on the 6-year-old boy's medical ordeal on Friday.