Meningitis deaths prompt CDC to recommend vaccine for teens
By LORA HINES, The Press-Enterprise
1:27 PM, Jan 28, 2011
1:35 PM, Jan 28, 2011
Teenagers should get vaccinated to protect against the bacteria
that causes meningococcal meningitis, the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention recommends in a report published
Publication in the Jan. 27 issue of "Morbidity and Mortality
Weekly Report" formalizes the recommendations made this fall by the
federal agency's advisory committee on immunization practices.
The committee's guidelines call for "routine vaccination of
adolescents, preferably at age 11 or 12 years, with a booster dose
at age 16," the report says of the meningococcal conjugate
"CDC is hopeful that doctors will begin implementing these
recommendations right away," agency spokesman Tom Skinner said
Thursday. Nationwide, approximately 2,600 people contract
meningococcal disease each year. Of those, about 1 in 10 die,
according to the CDC.
Those who survive may experience long-term disabilities, such as
brain damage, kidney failure, loss of arms or legs, chronic
nervous-system problems or hearing loss.
Meningococcal infections are contagious, typically affecting
pre-teenage children, adolescents, college freshmen and travelers,
the CDC reports.
On Jan. 6, Janelle Moorehead, an 18-year-old softball player at
Monmouth University in New Jersey, suddenly died of
meningococcemia, a severe bacterial infection in the bloodstream,
her doctor said. The meningococcal bacteria also causes meningitis,
a disease that inflames membranes around the brain and spine.
Vaccines that fight the bacteria have been available since the
1970s, but they don't prevent all cases of the disease. Sometimes,
second doses are advised for people considered at high risk of
infection, including college freshmen and people who have been
exposed to a meningitis outbreak.
About the disease:
-- Infection spreads through exchange of saliva, by coughing,
kissing or sharing drinking glasses, not by casual contact or
breathing the same air.
-- People living together, those in day-care centers or anyone
with direct contact with a person's saliva, such as a boyfriend or
girlfriend, would be at increased risk.
-- Telltale signs of infection include severe headache, extreme
neck stiffness, high fever, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light,
altered mental state and a rash. People suffering from such