Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial illness. It is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children 2 through 18 years old in the United States. Meningitis is an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
About 1,000 – 2,600 people get meningococcal disease each year in the U.S. Even when they are treated with antibiotics, 10-15% of these people die. Of those who survive, another 11-19% loose their arms or legs, become deaf, have problems with their nervous systems, become mentally challenged, or suffer seizures or strokes.
Who should get meningococcal vaccine and when?
Revised recommendations are for children and adolescents 11 through 18 years of age to receive two doses of meningococcal vaccine. The first dose is normally given during the routine pre-adolescent immunization visit (at 11-12 years) and to get an additional booster dose @ 16 years of age. For adolescents who receive their first dose at 13 through 15 years of age, a one-time booster dose should be administered between ages 16 through 18 years or up to five years after the first dose. Meningococcal vaccine is also recommended for other people at increased risk for meningococcal disease.
Meningitis resembles the flu with nausea, high temperature, headache, neck stiffness, respiratory problems, drowsiness, and bleeding under the skin. Many victims suffer permanent disabilities, such as hearing loss, blindness, brain damage, or limb amputation. One in ten cases is fatal.