Dangers after the storm

September 18, 2008 6:44:06 PM PDT
Most of us have never seen or heard of anyone who had tetanus. That's a good thing because it's a bad disease. And right now during hurricane cleanup, we're most at risk for it. HURRICANE IKE: Breaking news on Ike | POD locations | Person locator | Local gas station report | Hurricane guide | Viewer photos of Ike | Latest power numbers

Do you know when your last tetanus shot was? Do you know when your kids last got a shot? For kids, it would have been called a DPT shot. If it's been 10 years, the Harris County Health Department says you need a new one.

All over the Houston area, every place you look, there's something that needs to be cleaned up. And people are getting hurt. Byron Henderson stepped on a rake.

"Since there were no lights in the garage, I was just doing what the Centerpoint lady told me to do," said Byron Henderson, who stepped on a rake. "And in that process of flipping breakers, there was a rake by the breaker box, stepped on the rake."

And now Byron is getting a tetanus shot.

"And I know the tetanus shot is probably going to hurt worse than having my foot lacerated," he said.

He's like many who get injured doing cleanup and now must get the tetanus shot.

"It can be passed on by coming in contact with soil, especially in this environment with a lot of debris, a lot of splinters, rusty nail, broken fences that can scratch you," said Dr. Herminia Palacio, director of the Harris County Health Department.

The Harris County Health Department is advising us to do what Byron did. If it's been 10 years since your last tetanus shot, get one.

"We have not seen a case of tetanus during this hurricane or just in general in years," said Dr. Michelle Mowad with St. Luke's.

It's rare because the tetanus vaccination works so well. But if you get it, it's nasty.

"It can be something like lockjaw, muscle spasms of your face, your neck. You can get fever. You can get rigidity of your whole body. It can cause you to sweat," said Dr. Mowad.

That's not the only shot people have needed this week. How about rabies? Two people were bitten by bats and one person even brought that bat with him.

"He was doing something in his house or his yard and the bat flew out and bit him on the neck and dropped and he stepped on him," said Anita Martin-Amoako, RN. "So I saw the bat. I picked up the bag and it was dead."

That guy got a rabies shot.

"If he's watching, I hope he took that bat with him," said Martin-Amoako.

That's not all we should think about. Standing water is expected to cause a spike in mosquitoes and in West Nile cases. The number of people who developed West Nile disease doubled along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. So try to clear standing water and keep mosquito repellant with you during the next few weeks.

Keep your family safe this hurricane season. Check our complete tropical weather preparation guide


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