Unprotected People Reports: Tetanus
(1) Tetanus Killed Woman after Fall in Garden (2) Woman's Death Could Speed Action on Tetanus Vaccinations for Older People
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|The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC)
publishes articles about people who have suffered or died from
vaccine-preventable diseases and periodically devotes an “IAC Express”
issue to such an article. This is the 58th in our series.
|It is based on two articles published in
the “Yorkshire Post,” an English newspaper. “Tetanus killed woman after
fall in garden” was published on February 26, 2003, and “Woman's death
could speed action on tetanus vaccinations for older people,” on March 26,
2003. Both articles are reprinted with the kind permission of the
“Yorkshire Post.” Copyright “Yorkshire Post.”
|Tetanus Killed Woman After Fall in Garden
A RARE disease which has been largely wiped
out in the UK thanks to immunisation killed a 61-year-old woman after it
got into her system through a face wound.
Sheila Creighton fell on a bush in her
garden, cutting her face. She was taken to hospital where the wound was
cleaned up and stitched. But she was forced to seek further help when her
face began to ache and she had difficulty moving her jaw.
Several medical experts who saw Mrs
Creighton, most of whom had never seen a case of tetanus before, failed to
diagnose the disorder which attacks the nervous system, leads to spasms
and can kill.
It was only after she collapsed several
days after the fall that tetanus was diagnosed. She was treated in the
intensive care unit at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, but efforts to
save her failed and she died in April last year, four weeks after the
An inquest in Huddersfield was told
yesterday that the disease was extremely rare in the UK. Figures for 1999
showed that there were only three reported cases and only one resulted in
Deborah Tooley, specialist registrar in
anaesthetics and intensive care at Pinderfields, who treated Mrs Creighton
in the later stages of the illness, said she could not speak but by asking
her patient questions had discovered Mrs Creighton had had a tetanus jab
Prior to that she indicated she hadn't been
immunised for about 20 years. But the inquest heard conflicting evidence
that her GP notes showed she had been immunised in 1991.The hearing was
told that if Mrs Creighton, of Milton Road, Liversedge, near Dewsbury,
hadn't been immunised for 20 years before 1995 she wouldn't have been
protected.Pathologist Patricia Gudgeon concluded that Mrs Creighton's
death was due to pneumonia and brain damage caused by tetanus which
entered her system through a contaminated wound.
Mrs Creighton was first treated at Dewsbury
District Hospital on March 28 last year. Dr Ed Walker, a specialist in
emergency medicine at the hospital, said she had a clean wound that was
treated and dressed. Notes he was given showed she had been vaccinated in
1995 and because of this and the type of wound he had decided she did not
Yesterday, recording a verdict of
accidental death, West Yorkshire coroner Roger Whittaker said he couldn't
criticise the various medical experts who hadn't diagnosed tetanus. He
said they had made considered judgments. It wasn't until later that all
the symptoms materialised.
He called for a better system which would
allow doctors to quickly get information about patients' immunisation
Speaking after the inquest Mrs Creighton's
daughter Janet Creighton said the family was keen to raise awareness of
what could happen if people were not immunised.
"We want to make people aware that this can
happen and urge them to check records with their doctors and make sure
that they are covered. It could happen to anybody," she said.
Mrs Creighton's husband Ronald said his
family had done research and it appeared that those born before 1961 were
especially at risk, because that was when routine tetanus immunisation
Woman's Death Could Speed Action on Tetanus Vaccinations for Older
A concerted Government effort to raise
awareness of the danger of tetanus to older people was yesterday signalled
after the death of a 61-year-old West Yorkshire woman.
GP surgeries administering flu jabs across
the country could be told to check whether pensioners and older people are
And there are plans for a nationwide
computerised record system which would tell doctors whether a particular
patient was protected against the very rare, but potentially deadly
Health Minister Hazel Blears confirmed the
plans after Dewsbury MP [member of Parliament] Ann Taylor raised the
tragedy of her constituent Sheila Creighton who died in April last year
after falling on a bush in her garden in Liversedge and cutting her face.
She was taken to hospital where her wound was cleaned up and stitched but
later had difficulty moving her jaw.
Several days later she collapsed and was
treated at the intensive care unit at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield
but died four weeks after her accident.
As Mrs Taylor yesterday recalled in a
special debate at Westminster, tetanus was not instantly diagnosed.
There was also doubt about when Mrs
Creighton had last been vaccinated. An inquest, which recorded a verdict
of accident, heard conflicting evidence that she had been vaccinated in
1995 and 1991 as well as having a much earlier jab.
But Mrs Taylor yesterday urged the
Government to raise the awareness of the dangers of tetanus, even though
it was now an extremely rare disease in the UK, and the need for older
people to have booster jabs.
The Dewsbury MP acknowledged that since
1961, a programme of tetanus jabs for children had been carried out. And
she was told by Ms Blears that in Calderdale and Kirklees, up to 96 per
cent of two-year-olds were immunised--above the national average.
But Mrs Taylor emphasised the need to raise
awareness of the need for protection among older people. Given the
confusion over Mrs Creighton's immunisation record when she was being
treated, the Dewsbury MP also raised the need for better patient records,
a plea also made by coroner Roger Whittaker at Mrs Creighton's inquest.
Acknowledging that Mrs Creighton's husband
Ronnie had suffered "a great loss," the Dewsbury MP urged the Government
to ease some of the bereaved family's anxieties by raising awareness about
the potentially deadly disease.
Ms Blears, who extended her sympathy to Mrs
Creighton's family, warned that although tetanus was now extremely rare in
the UK, it could not be eradicated completely as it was picked up from
spores in the soil.
|10/31/03 • REPORT #58
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