Healthy Living in the North

Protect yourself against tetanus this spring!

Couple hiking in forest.

Planning on heading outdoors this season? Make sure that your tetanus immunizations are up-to-date!

The temperature outside is finally above zero, which has provided me with a burst of spring energy! Most of us have long awaited the first signs of spring and are now ready to enjoy the temperate outdoors. Hiking is one of my favourite outdoor activities to do once the snow has melted so I make an effort to ensure my tetanus shot is up-to-date before I head out. Because tetanus is found in soil, any outdoor activity that has the potential for cuts, scrapes, or animal bites comes with the risk of tetanus infection.

Tetanus is caused by the toxin of a nasty little bacterium that gets into breaks in our skin and leads to excruciating muscle cramps and sometimes even death. Scary, right? Gardening, using outdoor machinery and getting too close to wild animals are also common sources of infection.

There is no cure for tetanus. Early recognition and prompt treatment including wound and supportive care, as well as the prompt administration of tetanus toxoid and tetanus immune globulin, may decrease the severity of the disease. The trick to protecting yourself? Getting your routine publicly-funded tetanus immunization! Infection with tetanus is uncommon in Canada because of immunization. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends routine childhood immunization against tetanus and routine tetanus and diphtheria boosters for adults. Are your immunizations up to date? Don’t let tetanus cramp your outdoor style!

To find out if your tetanus immunizations are up-to-date, contact your local public health unit. Visit Northern Health’s website for local health unit contact information as well for more information on tetanus and other vaccine-preventable illnesses.

Beth Munk

About Beth Munk

Beth was born and raised as a true northerner in Prince George, where she completed her nursing degree at UNBC in 2013. She relocated to Dawson Creek two years ago to pursue her dream job in preventive public health nursing and has loved getting to know her new community. Beth loves any outdoor activity, from hiking to soccer, and has much love and appreciation for nature. In her spare time, she can be found exploring waterfalls with her fiancé in the Peace River area or enjoying time spent at her family cabin in Prince George.


Did you know there is a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer?

You’ve probably heard about the vaccine that protects against human papillomavirus (HPV) but do you know much about it or why it is important for our health?

In the spirit of National Immunization Awareness Week, I would like to highlight this particular topic that continues to get media attention and is sometimes a point of concern for parents considering vaccinations for their school-aged children. I’ve also seen many young women in sexual health and immunization clinics who have had questions and misunderstandings about this immunization. In my experience, people are often ready to dismiss a vaccine when they’re uncertain of its safety or efficacy or if they’re uncertain of whether they’re even really at risk for the illness that the vaccine is preventing. This hesitation is understandable, right? We want to make sure that we are choosing health interventions that are necessary and safe for ourselves and our children. Well, hopefully I can help shed some light on this sometimes controversial topic!

The HPV vaccine protects against the virus that causes almost all cervical cancers. Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in women. Two types of HPV vaccines are approved for use in Canada: Cervarix® (HPV2) and Gardasil® (HPV4). Both vaccines protect against infection from HPV types 16 and 18 that cause about 70% of cervical cancers, 80% of anal cancers, and other cancers such as cancers of the mouth and throat, penis, vagina, and vulva. The HPV4 vaccine also protects against infection from HPV types 6 and 11 that cause about 90% of genital warts cases. The vaccines are approved by Health Canada and are provincially-funded (i.e., free) for girls and women aged 9-26. HPV4 vaccine is also recommended, but not provided free, for the following people:

  • Adult women up to 45 years of age
  • Boys and men 9-26 years of age
  • Men 27 years of age and older who have sex with men

Those not eligible for free HPV vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies and travel clinics.

Facts on cervical cancer in B.C.If you’re a parent with daughters or a young woman considering this vaccine, here are a few facts:

  • HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. 3 out of 4 sexually active Canadians have been infected at some point in their lives.
  • HPV infection is spread even with the use of condoms as it is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.
  • HPV infection rates peak at adolescence and can go undetected for quite some time as HPV usually causes little to no symptoms. For the greatest benefit, it is recommended to receive the HPV vaccine prior to the onset of sexual activity.
  • Studies have shown that antibody levels in those who received the HPV vaccine were greater in individuals 9-15 years of age compared to those 16 years and older. The BC Centre for Disease Control has a great primer on antibodies and the role they play.
  • Studies have shown that HPV vaccine is safe and effective. Common reactions are similar to other injectable vaccines and may include soreness, redness and swelling at the injection site, muscle or joint ache, fatigue, or headache.

This is just some of the information available on HPV vaccination. If you wish to find out more, please speak to your doctor or contact your local public health nurse. You can also visit Northern Health, ImmunizeBC, HealthLinkBC, and the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Still have questions? Check out the video below that provides more information on HPV and the HPV vaccine. ImmunizeBC has a great bank of HPV videos, too!

Additional immunization and HPV resources:

Kyrsten Thomson

About Kyrsten Thomson

Based in Terrace, Kyrsten is a public health communications liaison nurse. Her role focuses on promoting immunization awareness and supporting internal and external communications. Kyrsten moved to Terrace seven years ago after graduating with a nursing degree in Ontario. As a student, she knew public health was her passion, especially work in health promotion and community development. She fell in love with the north and all the fantastic outdoor activities right at her fingertips. Since moving to the north, Kyrsten has started a family, taken up hiking, running, and enjoys spending summer days at the cabin.