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Meningococcal Meningitis Information

Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It is one of the leading causes of bacterial meningitis in children 2-18 years of age in the United States. About 1 out of every 10 persons who get the disease dies even if they get treatment. Another 10-19% have very serious lifelong problems as a result of having the disease. It is caused by a bacteria called Neisseria meningitides.

 

Symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include high fever, headache, stiff neck, pain when looking at bright lights, sleepiness, nausea and vomiting. As the disease progresses patients may have seizures.

 

Meningococcal meningitis is a contagious disease spread from an infected person to others by the exchange of respiratory secretions. It is usually spread by coughing or sneezing but also can be spread by sharing eating and drinking utensils and kissing.

 

You may want to find out more about meningococcal meningitis from your child’s doctor or the Pottawatomie County Health Department. You may also read more about it at this link.

There are two vaccines which can prevent meningococcal meningitis. The vaccines available protect against four types of the bacteria including two of the three that cause epidemics in the United States and one that causes epidemics in Africa. One of the types that causes epidemics in the United States is not covered by any vaccine. Both vaccines protect about 90% of the people who get them. MPSV4 is the vaccine that we have been using since the 1970s. A newer vaccine MCV4 was made available in 2005 and is thought to offer longer lasting protection. Both vaccines are judged to be safe and are approved for use by the FDA. These vaccines like all medicines carry some risk such as allergic reactions. This risk is very small. About half of the persons who get the vaccine have redness and or pain where the shot was given.

 

These vaccines are available from your child’s doctor or the Pottawatomie County Health Department. The vaccines are produced in limited quantities at this time. You should check with your child’s doctor regarding availability.

 

Students living at home are not in a high risk group for this disease. Persons living in dormitory settings such as military barracks and college dorms and persons traveling to Africa are in the high risk groups. Medication can be given after a known exposure to prevent the disease. This vaccination is not required for school attendance. It is a serious disease and we are required by law to give you this information. If you have questions, please speak with your child’s doctor. (Senate Bill 1467-Nov. 1, 2006)