An unvaccinated boy got tetanus. His hospital stay: 57 Days and $800,000

An unvaccinated boy got tetanus. His hospital stay: 57 Days and $800,000
But six days later, his parents realized something was seriously wrong: He was clenching his jaw, having trouble breathing and experiencing involuntary muscle spasms.

The boy, who had not received vaccinations, was taken to Oregon Health & Science University and was found to have tetanus, the state’s first documented pediatric case of the disease in more than 30 years, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The case, from 2017, was chronicled this week in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The article described a harrowing recovery and offered a warning of the dangers associated with the preventable disease: The boy spent 57 days in the hospital and racked up medical bills of more than $800,000.

“I honestly never thought I would see this disease in the United States,” said Dr. Judith A. Guzman-Cottrill, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Oregon Health & Science University, who helped care for the boy and was the lead author of the article.

“It was difficult — for many of us — to see him suffer,” she said Saturday.

The article came amid continuing tensions over vaccinations in the United States, which is experiencing a measles outbreak. Oregon has one of the highest rates of unvaccinated residents in the country, with 7.5 per cent of kindergarten-age children unvaccinated for nonmedical reasons, according to the CDC.

Parents who do not vaccinate their children have expressed worries about side effects, concerns over cost, moral or religious objections, and fears that vaccines lead to autism — an idea that has been widely debunked.

But health experts say a resistance or refusal to vaccinate can raise the chances of an outbreak by putting at risk people who cannot be immunized for medical reasons.

In Oregon, the boy, who was not identified, had not received any immunizations, Guzman-Cottrill said.

Doctors talked with the family about the need for vaccinations. Surviving tetanus does not offer immunity in the future.

But despite an “extensive review” of the risks, and the benefits of vaccination, the article said, the family declined the second tetanus vaccination — or any other recommended immunization.
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