Tetanus Shots Reach Wilmot and Wyalusing
By Rick Hiduk
Guthrie Clinic nurse practitioner Chris Keeney of Quick’s Bend expressed pride in her community after administering approximately 20 combination tetanus/diphtheria vaccines to residents and flood cleanup crew members there on Sept. 19. The shots seemed slow in coming to many Wyalusing area residents, but Keeney asserted that they were delivered well within the 10-day safety window for flood victims and anyone who might contract tetanus through a combination of breaks in the skins and an unclean environment.
Most importantly, she was impressed at the efficiency with which she said Wilmot Fire Company members, including Flora Johnson, coordinated not only the inoculations but also the distribution of clean clothing, boots, water, cleaning supplies, and three hot meals per day to anybody who needed them.
“She did a lot,” Keeney said of Johnson, who also provided directions and contact information for contractors in the area. Another Wilmot Fire Company volunteer, Alice Mosher, noted that the hot meals are available beginning at 8 a.m.
“We don’t care if they are muddy,” Mosher said of people who need food, supplies, or services. Meals can be packaged to go for people who do not feel that they have enough time to sit down to eat.
Keeney noted that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) representatives were on hand at the fire hall to speak directly with local residents who had lost most, if not everything, to the recent flooding.
“A lot of people were upset and didn’t know when they were going to get water and electricity back,” Keeney said of the people who met with FEMA, adding that their agents were “very professional.”
After taking care of everybody who had come to the fire hall specifically for the shots, Keeney contacted Wyalusing Area Elementary School (WAES) nurse Janean Eastman about rescheduling a planned visit to the school after an earlier planned immunization date had to be dropped due to a lack of vaccine. Eastman suggested that Keeney and Guthrie security officer Tim Shaw simply bring their mobile clinic directly to the school, where they administered another 30 shots to teachers and administrators.
Tetanus is also commonly known as “lock-jaw.” It is rare and takes about 10 days to manifest itself once an infection in a cut or abrasion begins. Symptoms for those who have not been immunized in the past seven years include stiffness of the jaw and then the neck muscles. Subsequent convulsions generally lead to death. Keeney was satisfied with the number of people who came out for the shots, as many of them had multiple cuts on their hands and arms.
Health officials started mixing the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines when the latter made a comeback a few years ago, primarily among adults whose childhood inoculations had worn out. Diphtheria is also known as whooping cough.
“A lot of people will turn down the (diphtheria) immunization because they don’t want a shot,” said Keeney, but, under the circumstances, she noted, “they were more readily accepting of it.”
Despite the slim chances of contracting tetanus, Keeney remarked, “If we prevented even one case, it was worth it.”
A similar tetanus clinic was mobilized without much notice for residents in the Rome area on Wednesday. When pressed for more timely information about any additional clinics planned for the area on Thursday or Friday, Guthrie Health Systems communications coordinator Maggie Barnes related, “We are monitoring our supply on a daily basis and making decisions based on what we have and when.”
Keeney suggested that anybody who feels that they meet the criteria for the inoculation and missed the opportunity to get the free vaccine while the mobile clinic was in their community can call the Guthrie Clinic at 570-888-5858 to make an appointment to get a shot in Sayre.