Meningococcal VaccineIn February 2005, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a new vaccine for adolescents to prevent meningococcal disease, an uncommon but serious infection.
Meningococcus is a bacterium, which lives on the lining of the nose and throat and is spread from one person to another by close personal contact. Occasionally, the virus enters the bloodstream and causes sever disease. The symptoms of bloodstream infection include fever, chills, rash, low blood pressure and dark purple spots on the arms and legs. Symptoms of meningitis include fever, headache, confusion and stiff neck.
Every year in the US approximately 2,500 people are infected with meningococcus and 300 die from the disease. Also, about 400 people every year who survive infection have permanent disabilities, such as seizures, loss of limbs, kidney disease, deafness and mental retardation.
The highest incidence of meningococcal disease occurs in infants less than 1 year of age. In children between 2 and 10 years of age, the incidence of infections is very low, but starting in adolescence the incidence of disease rises. Although adolescents are less likely to be infected than infants, they are more likely to die when infected.
The new vaccine is recommended for all adolescents entering middle school (11-12 years old) and high school (15 years old). It is also suggested that all college freshmen, especially students living in dormitories receive the meningococcal vaccine.
For more information, please visit vaccine.chop.edu.