The measles has gotten a lot of media attention lately. And that’s a good thing—I hope it’s increased awareness of the importance of the measles vaccine.
Related post: Measles—A Disneyland souvenir
But I just read about another serious disease outbreak that can also be prevented by vaccine—bacterial meningitis: 6th student in Oregon infected with meningitis bacteria
Last year, there was a significant meningitis outbreak at Princeton University, and one student died.
Meningitis is the inflammation of the meninges, a membrane around the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms can be mild and flu-like, or more severe with a high fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting and delirium.
Although bacterial meningitis is not common, the consequences of an infection can be very bad: permanent neurological damage, tissue damage that results in losing an arm or leg, or death.
Bacterial meningitis isn’t as contagious as the measles, but it does spread easily with frequent close contact—sneezing, coughing, drinking from the same cup, kissing, and such.
That’s why outbreaks tend to involve college-aged students. The crowded rooms of fraternities, sororities and dorms are the perfect breeding grounds for the infection.
The vaccine is normally given in two doses; the first is recommended at age 11 or 12, the second at age 16. Some colleges require the meningitis vaccine.
More recently, a new vaccine has become available to protect against a specific strain of meningitis, meningitis B.
For more information on meningitis and the vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control has a good webpage: Meningococcal Disease
Or talk to your health care provider.