Tetanus

Tetanus or lockjaw is an awful disease. It is due to contaminated wounds and causes muscle spasms that affect the jaws, extremities, back, abdomen, and diaphragm, making breathing difficult. Without treatment, one out of four infected people dies.

In WW1 many soldiers died of tetanus. Clostridium tetani, the bug that causes tetanus, only survives in anaerobic (no oxygen) conditions deep in the soil. The soldiers in WW1 dug deep trenches, fought in them for months, were malnourished, many had dysentery or trench foot, and injuries from gunshot or shells penetrated deeply. Furthermore wound care was non-existent.

According to the CDC 233 tetanus cases (not deaths) were reported from 2001 through 2008 (about 30 cases per year) in the USA. Thirty cases (12.9%) were reported as diabetic, and 27 (11.2%) as injecting drug users. Immunization data were available for only 92 (40%) cases of which 29 (32%) were fully immunized (received more than 3 doses tetanus toxoid), 26 received 1 dose, and 37 were not immunized.

I apologize for the many numbers in the previous paragraph. There are two reasons for this: first the number of tetanus cases: 30/year.

  • Tetanus is a distinct illness that requires hospitalization. My assumption is that only very few cases are unreported.
  • 2/3 of the available data were not adequately vaccinated.

Let’s look at these three points more closely:

  • The population of the USA is 310 million. Let’s assume that every one of these 310 mio. people gets injured once a year and sustains an open wound, or gets stung by an insect, or bitten by a spider, or has a deep splinter. The recommendation for all of these injuries is a tetanus shot. The incidence of these injuries is probably much higher than assumed. Anyway, let’s go on: That is 849,315 injuries daily. That is 590 injuries per minute. In the time it takes you to read this article about 2,950 people in the USA receive an injury that could cause tetanus.
  • 2/3 of these people are not adequately vaccinated, therefore 1,967 of them are really seriously in danger, right?

How come that in spite of the high injury rate and low vaccination rate there are only 30 cases annually?

The reason is simple: Thorough cleaning of all injuries and wounds and the removal of dead or severely injured tissue (debridement) reduces the risk of developing tetanus significantly. Thanks to hygiene, not vaccination, do we have a lower risk of getting infected by tetanus than being killed by lightning (75 deaths annually).

By the way: when did you have your last tetanus booster? The recommendation just changed: it used to be every 10 years, but now for some obscure reason the recommendation for a booster shot is every 5 years. There is really no scientific data supporting this change: The incidence of tetanus has not gone up; it is going down instead. There is a lot of money to be made, though – basically doubling the income of the vaccine manufacturers. And that’s the bottom line: the vaccine manufacturers do not have your health in mind (although the commercials are quite convincing). If health would be their priority they would not use cheap adjuvants like aluminum, cheap preservatives like Thimerosal, which is 49.6% mercury, or formaldehyde, which was just added to the government’s list of known human carcinogens, to vaccines. Their priority is to make money for their stockholders.
The cheapest and safest way to prevent tetanus is good wound care:

Water under pressure is the best way to clean a wound. Either a briskly running faucet or a hand-held shower nozzle is the best way to wash a wound. The wound should be washed for 10 minutes. Make sure you remove all dirt and debris. Do not scrub deep wounds or bites, just wash them out. Merely running water over a wound is of little value.

Use soap and a soft washcloth to clean the skin around the wound. Try to keep soap out of the wound itself because soap can cause irritation. Use tweezers that have been cleaned in isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) to remove any dirt that remains in the wound after washing. You may finish with a stronger cleansing solution (such as hydrogen peroxide or iodine), however children may not appreciate this because these things may irritate wounds.

Bleeding helps clean out wounds. If the bleeding does not stop by itself, apply firm but gentle pressure on the cut with a clean cloth, tissue or piece of gauze. If the blood soaks through the gauze or cloth you’re holding over the cut, don’t take it off. Just put more gauze or another cloth on top of what you already have in place and apply more pressure.

Leaving a wound uncovered helps it stay dry and helps it heal. If the wound isn’t in an area that will get dirty or be rubbed by clothing, you don’t have to cover it.
Reasons to go to the hospital:

  • If you have a life-threatening wounds (Call 911 for emergency services.)
  • If you have a laceration greater than 1/2-inch long that is through all layers of the skin exposing the underlying fat.
  • If you cannot stop the bleeding
  • If the blood continues to “spurt” from the wound (apply pressure and go to the hospital’s emergency department.)
  • If you think that there may be something in the wound such as glass, wood, or rust, for example
  • If you cannot move your finger or toe in the area of the laceration, or you have lost sensation in the area beyond the laceration
  • or any bite wound (human or animal)


Peter Hinderberger, M.D., Ph.D., DIHom practices at Ruscombe. The mission of his practice is to promote optimal wellbeing by providing health care through an integrated approach, combining conventional and complementary therapies, which include Anthroposophic medicine, homeopathy, and salutogenesis.

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