Get tetanus shots, DOH tells penitents
TETANUS respects no faith, and even the most pious can get this fatal infection, the Department of Health has warned, as it advised would-be penitents to get antitetanus shots before undergoing Holy Week rituals that can give them deep cuts and wounds.
“We really discourage these practices (of self-flagellation and crucifixion), health-wise, but if (people) cannot avoid these as part of their devotion, the least they can do is observe health and safety precautions,” said Health Secretary Janette Garin in an interview with reporters.
Although Catholic bishops frown on the practice, many Filipino penitents subject themselves to crucifixion and self-flagellation during Holy Week as an act of faith and atonement for their sins.
Such practices, the health department said, could make penitents vulnerable to various bacterial infection, particularly tetanus, which is caused by Clostridium tetani, bacteria that thrives in contaminated soil, animal feces and other areas.
Seizures and spasms
Tetanus is a serious condition that causes seizures and severe muscle spasms in the neck, abdomen and limbs, which could lead to bone fractures in the spine and eventual death.
Garin urged penitents and flagellants to get an antitetanus vaccine at the nearest health center to ensure protection against this bacterial disease that affects the nervous system. Wounds should also be washed thoroughly with water and soap to prevent other infections.
Those who don’t have time to visit a health center prior to these penitential activities should get two doses of the tetanus vaccine within 24 hours after wound infliction, the health secretary said.
“Fever is a sign of infection so if you feel that you have fever, immediately consult a doctor especially if you scourged yourselves,” Garin added.
Self-flagellation is particularly observed on Good Friday in San Pedro Cutud, a town in Pampanga province, a Lenten spectacle that has become hugely popular among pilgrims and tourists.
The health department also reminded the rest of the faithful who plan to watch these Holy Week rituals to avoid too much sun exposure and to drink water more frequently to avoid sunburn and heatstroke.
Garin said sunburn can be prevented by holding outdoor activities in the early morning or late afternoon, and staying indoors between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. Applying sunscreen appropriately also provides ample protection against sunburn, she added.
“Heatstroke is a more serious consequence of too much exposure to the sun. This can be avoided by drinking eight to 12 glasses of water a day. Penitents can also benefit from this tip,” the health official said.
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