Is your child at risk for meningococcal meningitis?Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious - and potentially fatal - bacterial infection that may result in swelling of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) or a serious blood infection (meningococcemia).
By: Nancy Wille, The Republican Eagle
Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious - and potentially fatal - bacterial infection that may result in swelling of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) or a serious blood infection (meningococcemia).
This disease often infects people who were previously healthy. Adolescents are at higher risk than most other age groups and are more likely to die when infected. This disease can potentially kill an otherwise healthy young person in less than 48 hours.
It is spread from person to person through everyday activities like kissing and sharing utensils. Because outbreaks occur in colleges, schools, child care centers and other areas where people have close contact, meningococcal infections often cause panic in the community. First symptoms often seem like a cold or flu but can become worse very quickly. Symptoms may include high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, nausea, vomiting and exhaustion.
Even people who receive appropriate treatment are at risk for very serious consequences. About one in 10 people die, and up to two in 10 who survive suffer permanent and devastating consequences, such as brain damage, hearing loss, loss of kidney function and limb amputation. Vaccination is the best way to help protect against meningococcal disease. The vaccine protects adolescents from most of the disease types. The vaccine is recommended in two doses. The first dose is recommended for all 11- to 13-year-olds, and a booster dose is recommended at 16 to 18 years of age. Any 13- to 18-year-olds who have not previously received the vaccine should also get a single dose.
All college freshmen, especially students living in dormitories, should receive the meningococcal vaccine if they have not had it or received only one dose more than five years ago.
College freshman living in dormitories are five times more likely to get meningococcal disease than people of the same age who do not attend college. Most colleges, including those in Minnesota, recommend students receive this vaccine, and some colleges require proof of vaccination. Some viruses also cause meningitis, but meningitis caused by most viruses is usually not as severe as meningitis caused by bacteria. For more information about this disease and vaccination, call a medical care provider or the Goodhue County Health and Human Services at 651-385-6100 or 1-800-950-2142.