WASHINGTON — As millions in southeast Texas deal with the catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, emergency physicians want to attempt to ease some concern by pointing out that exposure to flood waters does not increase the risk of tetanus and there is simply no need to routinely administer tetanus shots to those exposed to flood waters.
“Patients should obviously take the advice of doctors and medical personnel on the ground because medical care is always a case-by-case basis,” said Becky Parker, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). “However, administering tetanus shots on a routine basis for precautionary reasons is not necessary and only serves to take up the valuable time of health care workers, cause lots of sore arms that need to be working and frighten people about a condition they are not at an increased risk of getting.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to flood waters does not increase the risk of tetanus.
ACEP also advises that everyone be up-to-date with the CDC’s recommended vaccinations schedule. Adults need a routine tetanus booster every 10 years.
People working in flood areas should wear proper protective equipment such as, hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves and watertight boots with steel toe insoles. Always tend to first aid, even for minor cuts and burns. Immediately clean all wounds and cuts with soap and water. It’s also recommended that you talk to a doctor or other health professional on the scene for medical advice.
ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.
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