Tetanus is a problem with the nervous system. It is caused by bacteria. This bacteria releases a toxin that causes severe muscle contractions and can cause death. The disease has been called “lockjaw” because it can cause severe painful spasm of the muscles around the jaw.
The disease usually occurs after suffering a deep cut or puncture wound, or foreign body such as a splinter. Most people will develop symptoms within a week of injury. Treatment for the illness once symptoms begin is very difficult and intensive.
The good news is that this disease is preventable with immunizations. Most people have received a series of tetanus immunizations during childhood. Adults should get a tetanus booster every ten years. If you have a deep or dirty wound, it is likely your healthcare provider will recommend a booster if it has been longer than five years since your last booster.
Growing up sleeves were a big no-no. We weren’t supposed to use our sleeves to wipe our noses or our mouths. We weren’t supposed to stretch out our sleeves. And we weren’t to use our sleeves as rags to wipe things down. Sleeves were to be – well – sleeves.
The wiping of the nose thing – that’s still good advice, but our sleeves can serve a purpose other than being sleeves. Sleeves are great for coughing and sneezing. If you’re coughing/sneezing into your sleeve, you’re limiting the spread of germs into the air, protecting those around you.
Here at Student Health Services things have been a bit batty. We have had quite a few appointments related to bat exposures. Why would someone schedule a doctor’s appointment if they have been exposed to a bat? Bats can be carriers of rabies. In fact, the CDC recommends that all persons with a bite, scratch, or mucous membrane exposure to a bat undergo rabies post exposure prophylaxis.
Mucous membranes line the cavities that are exposed to the external environment and to internal organs. Think nose, lips, eyelids, ears, etc. If a bat were to land on you and touch your ear, for example, you might have a mucous membrane exposure.
If you woke up because a bat landed on you while you were sleeping of if you awakened and found a bat in your room, you have potentially been exposed. The small teeth of a bat can make a bite difficult to find, so it’s better to be safe in these situations and assume exposure.
Of course, the best thing to do if you have been exposed to a bat is to safely capture the bat in question and have it submitted for rabies testing. You can contact the Ohio State Veterinary hospital for more information. If you are unable to capture the bat, then thoroughly wash the affected area with soap and water and schedule an appointment at Student Health Services or with your primary care physician. They can then determine if rabies post exposure prophylaxis is needed.
Rabies post exposure prophylaxis involves four doses of rabies vaccine given on the day of the exposure and then again on days 3, 7, and 14. The purpose is to prevent you from contracting rabies which is a very nasty and deadly virus.