CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. - Governor Cuomo announced a new order making it easier for people in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy to be vaccinated against tetanus.
Pharmacists will be now be allowed to administer tetanus shots at their place of business, and emergency medical technicians and dentists will be able to assist city or county health departments in administering tetanus vaccines.
Tetanus shots can prevent infections that could result from exposure to tetanus bacteria during post-storm cleanup activities.
"It is critical that people performing cleanup work after the storm take all necessary health precautions, including getting a tetanus vaccination if needed," said Governor Cuomo.
Due to the possibility of getting deep cuts or wounds when cleaning up debris, performing tasks that involve contact with soil or dirty materials, or making repairs to homes in the aftermath of the Hurricane Sandy, people that are in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy need to guard themselves against potential tetanus infections.
Emergency responders, volunteers and residents working on repair, construction and cleanup projects should check to make sure they have been immunized for tetanus within the last ten years.
If they are not up-to-date with the immunization or are unsure of the date of their last tetanus-containing vaccination, they should obtain a tetanus booster.
The New York State Health Department and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene urge people to contact their primary health care provider first to receive a tetanus booster shot.
If their primary care provider is not operating or they cannot get to their primary care provider's office, individuals should contact their local pharmacy or local health department to inquire about receiving a booster shot.
Many pharmacies in the affected areas are ready to provide these vaccinations. Residents in New York City can call 311 to locate a vaccination site.
Tetanus is an infection caused by bacteria that are present in dust, soil or manure, and enters the body through puncture wounds or cuts.
After entering the body, the bacteria can produce toxins that can cause painful muscle contractions in the neck and abdomen, which are often characterized as "lockjaw," and can impair breathing. Left untreated, tetanus can be fatal.
In addition to following safety guidelines to prevent injuries during cleanup or construction activities, all wounds and cuts should be washed thoroughly with soap and water. Medical attention should be sought for puncture wounds and lacerations.
People who do sustain injuries and have not had a tetanus booster in the past five years should be revaccinated as part of treatment for the injury.
Additional information on tetanus is available at: http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/tetanus/fact_sheet.htm/.