An unvaccinated 6-year-old Oregon boy infected with tetanus spent about two months in the hospital — during which time his family racked up nearly $1 million in hospital bills, a case report reveals.
The report, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, reveals that the boy cut his forehead while playing on a farm back in 2017.
The wound was cleaned and sutured at home, but six days later, the boy had episodes of crying, jaw clenching, involuntary muscle spasms and other symptoms, the report said.
Later that day, the boy started having trouble breathing, and his parents contacted emergency medical services, who air-transported him to a pediatric medical center. He was soon diagnosed with tetanus, a serious bacterial infection that causes painful muscle spasms and can lead to death — but is preventable by vaccine.
During his time at the hospital, the boy requested water but couldn’t drink it because of his lockjaw. A tube was placed down his windpipe and he was hooked up to a machine that helped his breathing.
He was also given a dose of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine, as well as tetanus immune globulin, a medication made up of antibodies against the infection.
The boy was also placed in a darkened room with earplugs and minimal stimulation, as stimulation increased the intensity of his spasms, the CDC report said.
During his time at the hospital, things got worse before they got better. The boy experienced such strong spasms that his neck and back arched, his blood pressure and heart rate skyrocketed — and so did his fever.
In total, he required 57 days of inpatient acute care, including 47 days in the intensive care unit. The entire bill came to a whopping $811,929. It’s unclear what, if any, type of insurance the family has.
A month after inpatient rehabilitation, the boy was able to go back to his normal activities, including running and bicycling.
But despite the trying ordeal and the hefty bill, his parents chose not to have their son receive a second dose of the DTaP vaccine — or any other recommended immunizations, the report said.
Becoming infected with tetanus doesn’t make someone immune for life — and a person can be infected multiple times if not vaccinated.