Bacterial Meningitis: Ways to Protect Yourself
April 1, 2013
Dear Parent or Guardian,
As the District Nurse, I am writing to inform you about the dangers of meningococcal disease, commonly known as bacterial meningitis. Meningococcal disease is a rare but potentially fatal bacterial infection that can cause severe swelling of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) or a serious blood infection (meningococcemia). Meningococcal disease strikes up to 3,000 Americans each year; nearly 30 percent of these cases are among teenagers and college students.
A meningococcal vaccine is available for use among persons aged 11 to 55 years, which provides protection against four of the five types of bacteria that cause meningococcal disease. Many parents are unaware of the dangers the disease poses to their children and that a vaccine is available that may help to prevent up to 83 percent of cases among teens and college students. Immunization is the most effective way to prevent this very serious disease
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other leading medical organizations recommend that all 11-12 year olds should be vaccinated with meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4). A booster shot is recommended for teens at age 16 to continue providing protection when their risk for meningococcal disease is highest. Teens who received MCV4 for the first time at age 13-15 years will need a one-time booster dose at age 16 through 18 years of age. If a teenager missed getting the vaccine altogether, they should ask their doctor about getting it now, especially if they are about to move into a college dorm or military barracks.
About Meningococcal Disease:
Meningococcal disease is often misdiagnosed as something less serious because early symptoms are similar to common viral illnesses. Symptoms of meningococcal disease may include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, confusion, exhaustion and/or a rash.
Meningococcal disease is spread through direct contact with respiratory and/or oral secretions from infected persons (for example, kissing or sharing drinking containers). It can develop and spread quickly throughout the body, so early diagnosis and treatment are very important. Even with immediate treatment, the disease can kill an otherwise healthy young person within hours of first symptoms. Of those who survive, up to 20 percent may endure permanent disabilities, including brain damage, deafness and limb amputations.
Lifestyle factors common among teenagers and college students are believed to put them at increased risk of contracting meningococcal disease. These lifestyle factors include crowded living situations (for example, dormitories, and sleep-away camps), active or passive smoking and irregular sleeping habits. Teens should avoid sharing eating utensils and drinking out of the same container, since infections may spread through this type of close contact.
To learn more about meningococcal disease, vaccine information, and public health resources visit the following web sites.
· Meningitis Foundation of America, www.musa.org
· National Meningitis Association, www.nmaus.org
· This CDC website includes the CDC recommendations and information on the meningococcal vaccine. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Concerns/gbsfactsheet.html and detailed information on disease click: http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.html
· A list of local Wisconsin public health departments and contact information. http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/communicable/InvasiveBacteria/MeningococcalDisease.htm and http://dhs.wi.gov/localhealth/
· Columbia County Health & Human Services department http://www.co.columbia.wi.us/columbiacounty/hhs/Divisions/PublicHealthWIC/CommunicableDisease/tabid/786/Default.aspx
· Portage Community School District “Communicable Disease” Nursing Services Page: http://www.portage.k12.wi.us/cd.cfm
· American Academy of Family Physicians, http://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/1215/p1491.html www.aafp.org
· American Academy of Pediatrics, www.aap.org
Valerie Hon, RN
Valerie Hon, BS, RN
608/742-4867, extension 4131