News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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Three Cases of Tetanus in Michigan: Health Department Adults to Get Tdap Vaccine

(August 2, 2011)  Three recent cases of tetanus infection in southeast Michigan have prompted local public health officials to remind adults that immunizations aren't just for kids.

Adults who are uninsured or whose health insurance policy does not cover immunizations, are eligible for $15 Tdap immunization at the Health Department through the Michigan Adult Vaccine Replacement Program. The Health Department can bill Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance; no one is turned away for inability to pay. Call 800-432-4121 to schedule an appointment in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, or Otsego counties.

Tetanus, also known as "lockjaw," is an infection caused by bacteria. Tetanus bacteria is commonly found in soil and can enter the body through wounds contaminated with dirt, feces, soil, or saliva. Tetanus infection can cause a person's neck and jaw muscles to lock, making it hard to open the mouth or swallow. It can also cause breathing problems, severe muscle spasms, and seizures. Tetanus is a serious disease from which it can take months to recover. If left untreated, it can be fatal.

"It is important for teenagers and adults of all ages to get vaccinated against tetanus," said Joshua Meyerson, MD, Medical Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. "The best treatment for this disease is prevention through immunization." Meyerson urges teenagers and adults to get vaccinated with Tdap vaccine, which protects not only against tetanus, but also diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).

Because immunity to tetanus decreases over time, most adults need to get a booster shot every 10 years to stay protected. Adults who haven't received Tdap vaccine should receive Tdap instead of their next regular tetanus (Td) booster. Adults who have contact with infants should get Tdap vaccine as soon as possible because being vaccinated against whooping cough will prevent them from spreading the disease to vulnerable infants. It's a good idea for adults to talk to their doctor about what vaccines they might need.

"Vaccination is a lifelong process," Meyerson said. "It's important that adults of all ages get vaccinated against serious diseases, such as flu, tetanus, and whooping cough."

Many newer vaccines are recommended for adults, including vaccines to protect against shingles, pneumococcal disease, and human papillomavirus (HPV). Other vaccines adults may need include measles, mumps, and rubella; varicella; hepatitis A and B; and meningococcal vaccines.

Seasonal flu vaccine is now recommended for everyone, every year. The single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. Adults should talk to their health care provider about the vaccines they need to be healthy.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For information about vaccines adults need, contact your health care provider, call the Health Department at 800-432-4121 or visit