Charleston, WV -- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials moved today to squelch rumors that there is a shortage of tetanus vaccine to immunize people who may have been exposed to the disease in the recent floods.
"As a result of prompt action by the U. S. and West Virginia Departments of Health and Human Services, we have an adequate supply of tetanus vaccine to meet foreseeable needs," said Carlos Mitchell, the federal officer coordinating disaster assistance in West Virginia.
A U. S. Health and Human Services officer working with FEMA in the disaster relief effort, said, "We were apprehensive that we might get caught short, especially after the catastrophic floods over the July 7th weekend. But with the assistance of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other federal agencies mustered to help the disaster victims, we were able to arrange for two successive shipments of tetanus vaccine, one of 2500 doses, another of 5000 doses, and we hope that will meet the demand."
Although the vaccine was in short supply in West Virginia at the onset of the recent series of floods and storms, part of the misunderstanding about the availability of the serum may have arisen from current public health practices.
Most Americans received tetanus shots or boosters for any invasive cut or deep abrasion. Today's vaccine, however, is good for ten years. And, in a recent directive, the CDC recommends vaccination only if a patient "has received less than three tetanus-containing vaccines or if vaccination history is uncertain.
"For clean or minor wounds," the directive continues, "it should be given only if the patient has not received a tetanus containing vaccine during the preceding 10 years."
The Health and Human Services official said, "Tetanus exposure may occur only through open wounds. Ingestion of contaminated waters, such as those prevalent during floods, can cause a multitude of health problems, but tetanus isn't one of them. If you were in contaminated water with an open wound or sore of any kind, check with your local health department about the advisability of a tetanus inoculation."