After Painful Ordeal and $800K Medical Bill, Unvaccinated Boy Survives Tetanus

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It was only when his breathing became more hard later that day that his parents contacted emergency services, and he was air-transported to the nearest paediatric hospital.

The boy was airlifted to a pediatric medical center. The boy experienced such strong spasms that his neck and back arched, his blood pressure and heart rate skyrocketed - and so did his fever.

"We minimized stimulation because the child was exquisitely sensitive to light, touch, sound", Dr. Judith Guzman-Cottrill, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland who helped care for the boy, told Healthline.

Case study co-author Dr. Carl Eriksson, an assistant professor of pediatric critical care at Oregon Health & Science University, who was involved in the boy's treatment, wrote in an email to TIME that severe tetanus cases are very rare in the USA, where vaccination effectively prevents such conditions.

Tetanus is caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, which is found in soil and produces a toxin that causes painful muscle contractions. They also performed a tracheostomy, cutting a hole in his neck for prolonged ventilator support. When he was stabilized, he was transferred to a rehabilitation center for 17 days. That care included sedation, intubation, mechanical ventilation and later, rehabilitation.

Amid outbreaks of preventable childhood illnesses, one unvaccinated OR boy's nightmarish encounter with tetanus should serve as a cautionary tale for "anti-vaxxer" parents, doctors say. One month after his rehab concluded, he was able to return to normal activities "including running and bicycling", his doctors wrote.

Although their boy almost died and his hospitalisation racked up a healthcare bill of almost $812,000 (not including air transportation, inpatient rehabilitation and follow-up costs), the parents declined a second dose of the tetanus vaccine after he received an emergency shot in hospital. But upon his recovery, the boy's parents refused a follow-up tetanus shot. The signs and symptoms of the infection manifest about three to 21 days after it has entered the body.

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OR is one of 17 states that allow personal and philosophical exemptions from vaccines, which permit individuals who hold conscientious objections to one or more shots not to get them or let their children get them. Today, only about 30 cases are reported every year.

At a time when preventable outbreaks are making headlines in the United States, Guzman-Cottrill tells NPR that she has met many families who hesitate to give their children vaccines. A great majority of young children and babies are sufficiently vaccinated.

Despite the fact its been proven that vaccines don't cause autism, anti-vax parents are still refusing to protect their children from preventable diseases.

Lawmakers in OR and Washington are considering bills to end non-medical exemptions for childhood vaccines due to a Pacific Northwest measles outbreak. However, vaccines have been the one thing that we've had in pediatrics that have completely changed the face of kids' health.

While a tetanus vaccine was in development as early as the 1920s, it wasn't given to children regularly until the late-1940s. More serious side effects, like allergic reactions or seizures, are much less common.

Doctors diagnosed him with tetanus and administered tetanus immune globulin and the vaccine shot for tetanus and pertussis called DTaP.

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