Meningitis Vaccination and Middle School-aged Children
Joyce Allers, R.N.
November 24, 2003, 11-year-old Austin Armstrong had a pretty typical
day, filled with a presentation on volcanoes and playtime with a
friend after school. At 5 p.m. he began complaining of a headache
and chills. Less than 28 hours later, Austin died from meningococcal
meningitis. His family, school and entire community were stunned
by the loss of Austin and the rapid onset of this disease.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers for Disease Control
recently released new policy statements recommending routine meningococcal
vaccination (MCV4 Menactra) for certain age groups of children
and young adults. The newly approved Menactra vaccine can
provide substantial protection against most forms (A, C, Y and W-135,
but not B) of meningococcal meningitis. The following groups are
now recommended to receive the vaccine:
11-12 years of age
-15 years of age or upon entering high school (whichever comes first)
for those that havent been previously vaccinated
-All college freshmen living in dormitories
-Other groups at high risk
Though the meningitis vaccination has been acknowledged by the AAP
as an important initiative toward maintaining good health, it is
not as yet a part of the federal Vaccines for Children program;
therefore, it is not yet offered as part of immunizations given
by physicians and health departments at low cost. Local health departments
and many pediatricians are able to administer the vaccine for a
fee. Supplies of the new vaccine are not widely available as yet,
but supplies should increase gradually. Parents should call care
providers to check availability.
to the National Meningitis Association (NMA), meningococcal meningitis
is caused by bacteria which invade the lining surrounding the brain
(the meninges). It is called meningococcal septicemia or meningococcemia
when it enters the blood stream, destroying organs and tissue in
a matter of hours. Symptoms include: headache, fever, vomiting,
numbness, seizures, or disorientation. If symptoms occur, it should
be considered a medical emergency.
one-third of the 2,000 to 3,000 annual cases in the United States
result in fatalities or severe disabilities such as limb amputations
and organ damage. Between 10-15 percent of the cases are fatal and
about 15% of survivors end up with multiple amputations, organ damage,
brain damage or other severe side effects.
Studies have shown a recent increase in the number of adolescent
cases and deaths in the 1990's. Menactra is a safe, approved
vaccine, which can help prevent the majority of adolescent cases.
Known lifestyle factors that can increase the chances of contracting
meningitis include: crowded living conditions, moving to a new residence,
attending a new school, sharing beverages or utensils, going to
bars, smoking and irregular sleep patterns.
more information on the meningococcal vaccine, call Childrens
Healthcare of Atlanta at 404-250-KIDS or visit www.choa.org
or contact your local health department.