ZocdocAnswersDoes a shark bite require a tetanus shot?

Question

Does a shark bite require a tetanus shot?

I am 20 years old and had a tetanus shot in 2002, over spring break I was bitten by a 2 ft. long black tip shark. My question is since it has been within 10 years, should I get another tetanus shot, even though it still should be good.

Answer

Yes, you should get another tetanus shot. While the recommendation is to have your tetanus booster vaccine given every 10 years, any significant trauma such as this should be treated carefully. In your case, especially, as you are near the end of the 10 year mark, it would be wise to have another booster vaccine. Vaccines work by presenting the body with an inactive, weakened, or killed version of a virus or bacteria. When the body reacts to this foreign material, it creates antibodies which are specific to that unique invader. These antibodies are then stored for a long time, sometimes for your entire life. The next time that invading bacteria or virus returns, the body can mount an attack much faster, hopefully protecting you from serious illness. What we are finding now is that, over time, the immune response becomes weaker. That is why vaccines such as tetanus, whooping cough, and chicken pox are now being recommended more than just once: so that the body "remembers" the "bad guys" better and can react appropriately. Please make an appointment soon with your primary care doctor to receive a booster shot, as well as to follow up on the wound to make sure that it does not become infected.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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