Later that day, at the onset of breathing difficulty, the parents contacted emergency medical services, who air-transported him directly to a tertiary pediatric medical center.
The boy was airlifted to a pediatric medical center. After spending 57 days in the hospital, the child was moved to a rehabilitation centre where he regained the ability to walk, run and bike within 17 days, as per the CDC reports.
Case study co-author Dr. Carl Eriksson, an assistant 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 US, where vaccination effectively prevents such conditions.
Tetanus is an acute neuromuscular disease that poses a danger, especially to younger children.
The family's total charges for the hospital stay were $811,929, not including air transportation, rehabilitation and follow-up costs, per the report, which noted the average pediatric hospitalization in the U.S.in 2012 cost $11,143. The boy remained on muscle relaxers until day 35 of his hospital visit, when doctors slowly began weaning him off. He also spent time "in a darkened room with ear plugs and minimal stimulation" as light and loud noise generated more spasms.
A month after rehab, the boy returned to normal activities like running around and bicycling. But despite all they'd been through, his parents declined that shot, along with all other recommended vaccinations. But after six days, he was being treated for tetanus, an enormously painful, sometimes fatal infection that is caused by bacterial spores found in the soil and that is completely preventable with vaccine.
The bad news: His parents have refused the second recommended dose of the DTaP vaccine and any other vaccinations for the boy, despite what he went through.
Amid outbreaks of preventable childhood illnesses, one unvaccinated OR boy's nightmarish encounter with tetanus should serve as a cautionary tale for "anti-vaxxer" parents, doctors say. The signs and symptoms of the infection manifest about three to 21 days after it has entered the body.
The 2017 case is the first case of pediatric tetanus in OR in more than 30 years and alarmed infectious disease experts who said tetanus is nearly unheard of in the USA since widespread immunization began in the 1940s. Today, only about 30 cases are reported every year.
Total health care costs of adult tetanus cases may range from $22,229 to $1,024,672.
Despite the nightmarish ordeal, his parents still refused to have him vaccinated, according to health officials in OR who helped treat the boy.
Parts of OR and Washington have been described as anti-vaccination "hotspots", areas where the number of "philosophical belief" non-medical vaccine exemptions have grown in recent years. Uninsured or underinsured children may be eligible to receive vaccines at no cost through the Vaccines For Children program.
Side effects from the DTaP vaccine can include redness, swelling, soreness, and fever, which occur in up to 25% of children. Overall, says the CDC, the risk of the DTaP vaccine causing serious harm "is extremely small", while the risk of going unvaccinated-and actually getting diphtheria, tetanus, or pertussis-is much higher.