Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding and damage to the Gulf Coast and Houston areas when it made landfall at the end of August. Dumping 27 trillion gallons of water throughout Texas and Louisiana, Harvey destroyed more than 180,000 homes and is expected to be the costliest hurricanes in U.S. history, with estimates for relief and rehabilitation efforts coming in at approximately $190 billion.
With many wading to safety through debris-riddled flood waters and Texas residents returning home to begin work to clear out damaged materials and possessions, the need for medical care sky-rocketed. Community Cares RX, along with our parent company Paramount RX, partnered with Texas-based grocery chain H-E-B® to provide free tetanus vaccines to those exposed to contaminated food water or other rusted materials during and after Hurricane Harvey.
Paramount RX donated $75,000 worth of free tetanus vaccinations to help offset the increased demand in both the Houston and Gulf Coast communities. Through this donation, H-E-B® pharmacies throughout the affected areas were able to provide more than 2,000 tetanus vaccinations free of charge to those in immediate need.
The Need for Tetanus Vaccines
Tetanus, also commonly called lockjaw, is a serious infectious disease caused by bacteria found in soil and dust. Unlike other vaccine-preventable diseases, tetanus is not transferred from person to person, but rather through breaks in the skin, such as cuts or puncture wounds from contaminated objects.
During and after major flooding episodes, the demand for tetanus shots increases as many people are injured while either trying to escape flooded areas or while removing rusted, contaminated debris once the flood waters have receded. Although it is uncommon to contract this harmful disease from simply being exposed to flood waters, the risk increases for those who have not received the CDC-recommend booster shot every ten years.
For those who were injured while either wading through flood waters or handling rusted materials during cleanup efforts, a tetanus booster is recommend to decrease the likelihood of developing symptoms of tetanus.
Symptoms of Tetanus
One of the most common signs of the tetanus infection is a sudden tightening of the jaw muscles, which can lead to infected parties being unable to open their mouths as well as having trouble swallowing and breathing.
Other symptoms include spasms or the sudden tightening of the stomach muscles, painful muscle stiffness throughout the body, seizures, headache, fever and sweating, change in blood pressure, and an increased heart rate.
The best way to prevent tetanus is keeping up to date with your tetanus boosters. Unlike certain other vaccines and diseases, if you’ve had tetanus in the past or have been vaccinated before, you still need to get vaccinated on a regular basis to ensure you have the highest level of protection against the disease. The Centers for Disease Control recommends a tetanus booster once every ten years.
Practicing good wound care can also decrease your chances of contracting tetanus. If you’ve been cut or pierced by rusted metal or other dirty materials, take immediate action to clean the wound. Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based wipe or gel before tending to the wound. If you’re concerned about the wound, consult your doctor or primary care provider as soon as possible.
How You Can Help After Hurricane Harvey
If you’d like to help with the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts currently underway in Houston and the Gulf Coast areas, H-E-B® is accepting donations to help benefit the local communities. One-hundred percent of funds raised will be distributed to the American Red Cross, area Texas Food Banks, Salvation Army, and Texas Search and Rescue/Cajun Navy. Donations will aid in distributing financial support, emergency supplies, drinking water, and food to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Donate here.