What is meningococcus?
Meningococcus is a type of bacteria that causes a serious infection, called meningitis, in the brain and spinal cord. About 1,000 to 2,600 people get meningococcal disease each year in the U.S. Of these, 10-15 percent die, even with the use of antibiotics. Which is why, when the body needs every available tool to help fight such a dangerous condition, it’s critically important that your child be vaccinated for meningococcus.
How might a child get meningitis?
The bacteria are spread from person to person through droplets of respiratory secretions. Close and prolonged contact like kissing, sneezing, coughing, or possibly even sharing a water bottle with an infected individual can spread the disease. It can also be contracted by living in close quarters (dormitory, jail, military camps) with an infected person. And it seems that every year the news media report several breakouts of meningitis on college campuses.
What are the symptoms of meningitis?
The most common symptoms are stiff neck, fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches, and vomiting.
Are there long-term health impacts from meningitis?
Meningitis can result in long term problems like brain damage, hearing loss, seizures, and learning disabilities.
How is meningitis diagnosed?
If a child has symptoms that suggest meningitis, the doctor will do a special test called a lumbar puncture. This is a test in which a needle is inserted into the spinal cord in the lower back and fluid is collected for testing. The fluid is then sent to the laboratory to determine whether the meningococcus bacteria is present.
What is the treatment for meningitis?
These infections are treated with antibiotics, which will be administered in a hospital. (Anyone who has been diagnosed with meningitis must be admitted to the hospital.)
Is there a way to prevent meningitis?
The strongest preventative measure we have right now is to be vaccinated against the meningococcus bacteria. The meningococcus vaccine (MCV4) is recommended for children and adolescents 11-18 years old. This single-dose vaccine is typically given at the earliest opportunity, which is during your child’s pre-adolescent physical.
Is the vaccine safe?
Yes. Although any vaccine has the potential to cause problems or have an associated adverse reaction, the risk of meningococcal vaccine causing serious harm is extremely small.
Are there any post-vaccination reactions I should watch for?
As many as half the people who get meningococcal vaccines have mild side effects such as redness or pain where the shot was given. These side effects may last 1-2 days. A small number of people who receive the vaccine may develop a fever during the first day. Serious allergic reactions are very rare. However, if a more serious reaction like difficulty breathing, wheezing, or swelling of the throat occur, notify your pediatrician immediately for further evaluation.