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.


Tales from the Man Cave: Immunization is the healthy option

ImmunizationNext week is national immunization week. Immunization can be a hot topic and I can be very opinionated, so, as you’d expect, here is an opinion.

We are not immune to misfortune or disease. Today there are many who oppose immunization on principle or for reasons of fear.

Celebrity has played a large role in this with scaremongering regarding immunization and sometimes well intentioned celebs put out ill-informed information with a great deal of authority, which then becomes part of societal thinking, thereby informing behaviour.

The stakes are high and what is on the table is life itself.

I had a 3-year-old who developed meningococcal meningitis. It’s no laughing matter. We were told he had a 50/50 chance. My wife took the high road and I the low road.

In my mind I was losing a son; she could not even consider such a possibility. We were 24/7 around his bedside in hospital until he pulled through and it was the most stressful thing that has ever happened to me.

Turns out she was right and for that I am forever thankful.

So from experience I am informed of the great need for immunization.

Some of the offenders have been on the planet for millions, or like E. coli, even billions of years. Some we thought were dead are reemerging.

If we look back 200 to 300 years, which in the whole scheme of things is not all that long, we will see many deaths in childhood, from scarlet fever, chicken pox, whooping cough, Polio, diphtheria and measles, not to mention Tuberculosis and others.

In fact, we only need look to the 1918-20s for the famous Spanish influenza outbreak following on the tail end of WWI, which killed an enormous amount of healthy Europeans, to see the need for immunization.

So although I know there is no point in scaremongering regarding these things I can tell you at a personal level the agony of watching a child hang in the balance and praying that the scales tip in his favor.

Be informed about immunization and take the responsibility not to pass influenza, for example, on to a more vulnerable population who might not survive it. Immunization is the healthy option.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.