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Press Release

Outdoor activities can Increase the Risk for Tetanus

August 14, 2003

Spending time outdoors can expose you to tetanus but getting vaccinated can prevent the illness, according to public health officials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2001 almost 40% the tetanus cases reported to them were contracted while gardening or doing yard work and more than 50% of adults over age 20 do not have protective levels of antibodies against the disease.

"Tetanus germs live in soil, dust, manure and fertilizer," said Francie Wise, Contra Costa Public Health Division's Communicable Disease Program Chief. "People who work with these materials and have not received 10-year booster shots are putting themselves at risk."

Tetanus, or lockjaw, enters the body though a wound, and although it prefers deep wounds, Wise said no wound is too small.

"Most people think the only way to catch tetanus is by stepping on a rusty nail, but there have been recent cases where individuals acquired tetanus through a splinter wound, and even from skin scrapes received from falls. Vaccination is key to protect oneself against this illness," said Wise.

Persons who may find themselves at an elevated risk include gardeners, carpenters, construction workers and athletes. Outdoor activities that may increase risk include bicycling, basketball, roller sports, soccer, softball, horseback riding and any outdoor activity that can lead to a cut or scrape, including yard work and home repair.

"Adults need to understand that tetanus is preventable, they just have to make sure they receive their ten-year booster," said Wise.

Tetanus vaccines can be obtained from your health care provider or at the Contra Costa Health Services' Public Health Clinics. Clinic information is available by calling 1-800-246-2494 and on the Web at Information on tetanus is also available on the web at

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Press Contact
  • Francie Wise
  • 925-313-6740