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Should My Child Get The New Meningitis Vaccine?

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Question: Should My Child Get The New Meningitis Vaccine?
A new meningitis vaccine is being recommended for children at their routine preadolescent visit (11-12 years of age) or as teens start high school or head off to college. Should your children get it?

Answer: Meningococcal disease is a very serious bacterial illness. It is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children 2-18 years old in the United States. Meningitis is an infection of fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord. Meningococcal disease also causes blood infections.It typically has flu-like symptoms but progresses rapidly and can kill within hours.

About 2,600 people get meningococcal disease each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). About 10-15 percent of these people die, in spite of antibiotic treatment. Of those who live, another 11-19 percent lose their arms or legs, become deaf, have problems with their nervous systems, become mentally retarded, or suffer seizures or strokes.

Anyone can contract meningitis, although it is most common in infants less than one year of age and people with certain medical conditions. College students in dormitories also have an increased risk for getting the disease.

Meningitis immunizations were previously available for infants at ages 12-15 months. Most pediatricians still recommend that babies receive these shots. The new vaccine further protects adolescents. It is also recommended for other people at increased risk for meningococcal diease, including U.S. military recruits; anyone traveling to, or living in, a part of the world where the disease is common; anyone who has a damaged spleen, or whose spleen has been removed; and anyone who has an immune system disorder.

Before making any decision about an additional vaccine for your child, the best advice is to discuss the issue with your child's doctor.
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