A Young Boy Spent 47 Days in an ICU and Racked Up $800,000 in Medical Costs Because He Wasn’t Vaccinated Against Tetanus

​A young boy in Oregon spent 47 days in an intensive care unit (ICU), resulting in more than $800,000 in medical costs, because he was not vaccinated against tetanus, according to a case study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Case study co-author Dr. Carl Eriksson, an associate professor of pediatric critical care at Oregon Health & Science University, who was involved in the boy’s treatment, wrote in an email to TIME that severe tetanus cases are very rare in the U.S., where vaccination effectively prevents such conditions. The boy’s illness was Oregon’s first pediatric tetanus case in more than 30 years, according to the case study. “Because of the effectiveness of vaccines, many people have never seen a severe case of a vaccine-preventable illness,” Eriksson says. While Eriksson’s patient lived, “This case illustrates that tetanus is a terrible disease, and reminds us that missing vaccines can have deadly consequences.” In 2017, the boy — who was then 6 years old and had not received any vaccinations — cut his forehead while playing outdoors on a farm, the case study says. Nearly a week later, he was experiencing symptoms consistent with tetanus, including jaw clenching, muscle spasms, “generalized spasticity” and arching of the back and neck. When the boy began to have trouble breathing, his parents called emergency medical support, who air-lifted him to a pediatric medical center where he was eventually diagnosed with tetanus.

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