It’s a deadly disease gardeners may be exposed to when digging in the dirt.
With gardening season upon us, health experts are asking – when was the last time you got a tetanus shot?
Tetanus is caused by bacteria found in soil. When it enters a wound, spores of the bacteria can produce a toxin that impairs the nervous system, resulting in muscle pain, contractions and spasms that could eventually lead to coma and death.
It’s something gardener Cori Jones takes precautions to avoid.
Jones is often outside in her garden.
She’s passionate about her plants but admits she gardens with caution.
“Everybody thinks gardening is a pretty safe occupation but in some ways, it’s not,” Jones said.
A few years ago, after pricking her finger on a rose bush, Jones got blood poisoning.
It was a scare that prompted her to start wearing gloves when she gardens.
She also keeps up with immunizations, specifically for tetanus.
“It’s something I’m really frightened of,” Jones said. “I always keep my tetanus shots up.”
According to Alberta Health Services, tetanus is rare, but still makes anywhere from one to seven Canadians very sick each year. It can also be potentially fatal.
“If you’re out working in the garden, get immunized,” says Dr. Chris Sikora with Alberta Health Services.
Sikora says Albertans typically get immunized from tetanus throughout the school years.
About 90 per cent of Alberta children are immunized from tetanus but Sikora says once Albertans become adults, that number drops.
“I suspect there are many adults in Alberta who aren’t up-to-date with their immunization,” Sikora said.
“People should be immunized, re-immunized, against tetanus about every 10 years afterwards.”
Green thumb Helen Buvki says bacteria that might be lurking in the dirt doesn’t scare her away.
“I’m not concerned about it,” Buvki said.
Buvki keeps a record of her tetanus shots to try and stay protected.
“My shot is due next year,” she said. “I do keep a record.”
For Jones, taking precautions to ensure she can keep up with her favourite hobby safely is important.
She says she doesn’t want another health scare to come from gardening ever again.
“Now I know,” Jones said.
“I don’t say, ‘oh, it’s just a little poke at the end of my finger.’”
With files from Carmen Leibel