Health experts on Sunday reminded devotees intending to go through crucifixion and self-flagellation this Holy Week that they face possible serious risks of tetanus infection.

Dr. Katha Ngo, Internal Medicine – Infectious Diseases specialist at the ManilaMed, pointed out that penitents could be exposing themselves to tetanus, a serious bacterial disease that affects a person’s nervous system, leading to painful muscle contractions, particularly of the jaw and neck muscles and which is often life-threatening.

“We’re not in a position to say, don’t do that, of course. We respect their beliefs, but they have to know that they are exposing themselves to possible infection,” Ngo said.

“Penitents can actually contract infections such as wound infection, hepatitis B infection, and tetanus infection. If a wound infection is left untreated, it may spread to the deeper tissues beneath the skin. It may spread through the blood right through the body’s system. This can give you fever and may develop into severe infection.” she said.

To help prevent infection, flagellants are advised to take anti-tetanus shots before they embark on the penitence.

While these activities are not necessarily discouraged, prevention is highly recommended, as treatment and hospitalization may be costly compared to a three doses of an anti-tetanus vaccines.
“As they say, ‘prevention is always better than cure.’ I recommend that if they engage in these types of activities yearly in observance of their faith, they should always be updated with their vaccination. After the activity, they should immediately clean the wound and get checked by a specialist,” Ngo said.

“Infection can develop in any type of wound so for those practicing their penitence by nailing themselves to the cross, they usually use and share among them various tools such as sticks, blades, or any sharp objects to inflict pain or wounds,” Ngo added.

“We caution penitents to sterilize the nails and other sharp objects that will be used during flagellation. Tetanus can easily be contracted with the use of unsterilized or rusty nails,” said Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial in a separate interview.

To avoid tetanus, the penitents were told to make sure that the whips or nails they shall be using are rust-free and are sterilized with alcohol, while also having injected with anti-tetanus serum (ATS).
“Afterwards, they are advised to clean their wounds with clean water and soap,” Ubial added.

This news originally appeared here.