What Is Meningococcal Disease
Meningococcal disease can refer to any illness caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus . Meningococcal disease is not very common in the United States, but teens and young adults are at increased risk.
The two most common types of infections are
Who Should Get The Vaccine
Meningococcal vaccine is recommended for:
- Teens going to certain countries, including parts of Africa
- College students
- Teens living close together, such as in a dorm on a college campus or in military barracks
- Teens with weak immune systems or who take medicines that weaken the immune system
- Teens who don’t have a spleen, or their spleen does not work right
- Students who work with or study meningococcal diseases in the lab
The vaccine is not recommended if you:
- Had a bad reaction before to the meningococcal vaccine
- Are moderately or severely ill
Who Should Get The Meningococcal Vaccines
All children ages 11 through 12 years should receive meningococcal vaccine followed by a booster dose at age 16 years. Vaccination is also recommended for all adolescents ages 13 through 18 years who did not receive a dose at age 11-12 years.
Individuals ages 2 months and older who have certain conditions that weaken their immune system should receive meningococcal vaccine, including teens who are HIV positive. These persons should also receive booster shots every three to five years depending on their age. Talk to your health care provider if your preteen or teen has a condition that makes it harder for their body to fight off infection.
The MenB vaccine may also be given at age 16 years along with the MenACWY booster dose. MenB vaccine is also recommended for children age 10 years and older with certain high-risk conditions. The number of doses needed depends on the product used and if your child has a high-risk condition. Talk to your health care provider about this additional vaccine.
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Two Types Of Meningitis Vaccine:
Two categories of meningitis vaccine are available at UHS, quadrivalent vaccine and meningitis B vaccine.
Quadrivalent vaccine is routinely recommended for our incoming first-year students, especially for those living in residence halls:
- Protects against four strains , which cause 2/3 of meningitis cases
- Brand names are Menactra, Menomune and Menveo
- Recommended for adolescents 11-18 years old and certain others first-year college students living in residence halls are at increased risk of disease
- For more information including side effects and contraindications, see CDC Vaccine Information Statement
Meningitis B vaccine expands protection against this serious but rare infection.
People ages 16 -23 years old are eligible to receive this vaccine, and ages 16 -18 years are the preferred ages for vaccination.
People 10 years or older who are at increased risk are recommended to receive the vaccine, including:
- People at risk because of a serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak
- Anyone whose spleen is damaged or has been removed
- Anyone with a rare immune system condition called persistent complement component deficiency
- Anyone taking a drug called eculizumab
- Microbiologists who routinely work with isolates of N. meningitidis
- Protects against strain B, which causes 1/3 of meningitis cases
- Brand names are Bexsero and Trumenba, which are both offered at UHS.
- Is relatively expensive, so be sure to check whether it is covered by your health insurance.
I Already Received The First Dose Of The Vaccine Could I Still Get Sick From Meningitis
Individuals who already received the first dose must get a second dose in order to be fully protected against meningitis caused by serogroup B. It is also important that individuals continue to limit the spread of the disease to others by increasing hygiene practices and not sharing items that come in contact with the mouth such as drinking cups, eating utensils, or smoking materials.
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What Should I Do If I Develop Flu
Students experiencing high fever with or without headache, stiff neck and other symptoms of meningitis should be examined at Columbia Health. Faculty and staff should go to the local emergency room or see their healthcare provider. Visitors and those off-campus should go to the local emergency room.
Diagnosis Of Meningitis In Babies
Tests can confirm the diagnosis of meningitis and determine what organism is causing it. Tests include:
- Blood cultures. Blood removed from your babys vein is spread on special plates that bacteria, viruses, or a fungus grows well on. If something grows, thats probably the cause of the meningitis.
- Blood tests. Some of the blood removed will be analyzed in a lab for signs of infection.
- Lumbar puncture. This test isalso called a spinal tap. Some of the fluid that surrounds your babys brain and spinal cord is removed and tested. Its also put on special plates to see if anything grows.
- CT scan. Your doctor may get a CT scan of your babys head to see if theres a pocket of infection, called an abscess.
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Should People Who Have Been In Contact With A Person With Meningococcal Disease Receive Preventive Treatment
Only people who have been in close contact for long periods of time with the ill person need to be considered for preventive treatment. If you were in close contact with a person with meningococcal disease, your physician will usually prescribe an antibiotic. Casual contact, for example, the type that might occur in a regular classroom, office or other work setting, or when handling food is not usually considered close contact.
Risks And Possible Side Effects
The shot has a few risks. Side effects are usually mild and go away within a few days. They may include:
- Soreness and swelling at the site of the injection
- Fever or chills
- Rare allergic reactions
You can take over-the-counter pain medicine to ease any pain and swelling after you get the shot.
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Haemophilus Influenzae Type B Vaccine
Before a vaccine became available for it, Haemophilus influenzae type b was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis. Hib is much less common today due to vaccinations.
Doctors usually administer the Hib vaccine at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. They will administer it again between the ages of 12 and 15 months.
The dosing regimen depends on the brand of vaccine an infant receives.
Doctors will give this vaccine either alone or as part of a combination vaccine.
Is Meningococcal Disease Serious
Meningococcal meningitis and bloodstream infections can be very serious, even deadly. The infections progress quickly. Someone can go from being healthy to very ill in 48 hours or less. Even if they get treatment, about 10 to 15 out of 100 people with meningococcal disease will die from it. Long-term disabilities from having meningococcal disease include loss of limbs, deafness, nervous system problems, and brain damage.
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What Is The Cost
Based on the current recommendation, the vaccine is being offered at no charge to SIPA students.
For students in other schools, if you meet with your healthcare provider at Columbia Health and the vaccine is recommended, the cost will be submitted to Aetna if you are covered by the Columbia University Student Health Insurance Plan. If you have an alternate insurance plan, you will be charged the cost of each vaccine, which is $150, and you will be given the receipt to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement. Please check with your insurance company regarding coverage.
For faculty and staff, the university is not offering the vaccine as it is not recommended in most cases. Please check with your healthcare provider and your insurance carrier if you would like to discuss your individual needs.
People Without A Spleen Or Whose Spleen Does Not Work Properly
If you do not have a spleen, or your spleen does not work properly, or you have a weakened immune system then it is likely to be recommended to you that you receive the MenB and the MenACWY vaccines. The timing of your vaccines will depend on your age. Your doctor will be able to advise you in more detail regarding this.
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Is It Too Late To Get Vaccinated
The answer to this question isnt so clear-cut. If you have an unvaccinated teen headed off to college, there is still time for them to get their vaccines. Your child may also need another shot if they had the vaccine as a preteen. Meningitis vaccines are thought to only last for about five years, according to the Center for Young Womens Health.
Adults can also get the meningitis vaccine if their doctors recommend it. Certain situations can warrant the use of meningitis vaccinations. Examples include spleen removal, going to military camp, or traveling overseas.
Vaccines Reduce Number Of Meningitis Infections But For How Long
Jan. 9, 2001 — Bacterial meningitis, an often devastating infection resulting in inflammation of the spinal cord and the fluid surrounding the cord and the brain, can cause death, brain damage, hearing loss, severe learning disabilities, and many other potentially devastating conditions. Infants, adolescents, and young adults are most susceptible to infection.
But parents and others who care for children and teens will be relieved to hear that two recent studies have given a big shot in the arm to meningitis prevention efforts. Last week, the British government announced that an aggressive immunization program using a new vaccine against a particularly virulent form of bacterial meningitis, meningitis C, reduced the number of new meningitis cases in the U.K. by up to 90%. And now Canadian researchers report similar success with a mass immunization campaign in the province of Quebec in 1992-1993.
Unlike the new vaccine used in the U.K., however, the vaccine type still in use in both Canada and in the U.S. appears to protect children and teens for only a few years, and infants under 2 get almost no protection, say Phillipe De Wals, PhD, and colleagues in the Jan. 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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What Is The Meningococcus
The meningococcus is a germ that can cause meningitis and blood infection . It can also cause other infections – for example, pneumonia, eye infection , joint infection and inflammation of the heart . It most commonly causes infections in babies under the age of 1 year. It can also cause infections in those aged 1-5 years and those aged 15-19 years.
Some of these infections are very serious and can be fatal if not treated quickly. There are different groups of meningococcal bacteria:
- Groups B, C and, more recently, W are the common strains in the UK. Most cases of bacterial meningitis in the UK are caused by group B. Most of the rest are caused by group C . Infection caused by group W has increased in the UK in recent years.
- Group A is rare in the UK but more common in certain parts of the world – in particular, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Saudi Arabia.
- Groups Y, 29E and Z are rare in the UK but group W has been the cause of several recent outbreaks in different parts of the world, including the UK.
Infection with the meningococcus can affect anyone but those most at risk are children aged under 5 years , teenagers and young adults under the age of 25.
Who Should Not Be Immunised
- There are very few people who cannot be given meningococcal vaccines.
- Immunisation should be postponed if a child has a high temperature or serious infection. Minor infections such as coughs, colds and snuffles are no reason to postpone immunisation.
- The vaccine should not be given if there has been a severe reaction to a previous dose of vaccine . Also, it should not be given if a person is known to have a severe allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.
- The vaccines are safe if you are breastfeeding.
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How Is Meningococcal Disease Different From Meningitis
Meningitis means inflammation of the meninges. The meninges are tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis may happen for many reasons. The most common causes of meningitis are infections with bacteria and viruses. Meningitis can also occur from physical injury, cancer or certain drugs. Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis.
Don’t Share Personal Items
Meningitis can be contracted when you come in contact with respiratory or throat secretions saliva, sputum, nasal mucus of someone who is infected, either through kissing or sharing personal items. You can prevent the spread of meningitis by not sharing items where secretions can lurk, such as drinking glasses, water bottles, straws, silverware, toothbrushes, lipsticks or lip glosses, and cigarettes.
“Don’t drink from your friend’s soda can,” says Angela Vassallo, MPH, MS, director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Los Angeles and president of the greater Los Angeles chapter of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control.
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What Special Cleaning Is Needed To Prevent Spread
The bacteria that causes meningococcal disease does not survive well on surfaces and is not believed to be transmitted other than from person to person. There is no evidence showing that people are at risk of catching the infection by touching surfaces like doorknobs or keyboards. No special cleaning is necessary.
The Immune Systemthe Bodys Defense Against Infection
To understand how vaccines work, it helps to first look at how the body fights illness. When germs, such as bacteria or viruses, invade the body, they attack and multiply. This invasion, called an infection, is what causes illness. The immune system uses several tools to fight infection. Blood contains red blood cells, for carrying oxygen to tissues and organs, and white or immune cells, for fighting infection. These white cells consist primarily of macrophages, B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes:
Vaccines prevent diseases that can be dangerous, or even deadly. Vaccines greatly reduce the risk of infection by working with the bodys natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease. This fact sheet explains how the body fights infection and how vaccines work to protect people by producing immunity.
- Macrophagesmedia icon are white blood cells that swallow up and digest germs, plus dead or dying cells. The macrophages leave behind parts of the invading germs called antigens. The body identifies antigens as dangerous and stimulates antibodies to attack them.
- B-lymphocytes are defensive white blood cells. They produce antibodies that attack the antigens left behind by the macrophages.
- T-lymphocytes are another type of defensive white blood cell. They attack cells in the body that have already been infected.
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What Increases Your Risk
A risk factor is anything that makes you more likely to get a certain disease. Risk factors for meningitis include:
- Genetics. Some people may inherit the tendency to get meningitis. If they come in contact with organisms that can cause the infection, they may be likely to get infected.
- Crowded living conditions. People in camps, daycare centres, schools, and university dormitories are more likely to get meningitis.
- Being exposedto insects and rodents. People who live in or visit areas of the world where insects or rodents carry germs that cause meningitis risk getting the disease.
- Not gettingchildhood immunizations. People who didn’t get shots for mumps, Hib disease, or pneumococcal infections before age 2 are more likely to get meningitis.
- Being an older adult who hasn’t gotten a pneumococcal vaccine.
- Not having a working spleen, which is part of the body’s immune system.
- Travel to areas where meningitis is common. For example, people travelling to the “meningitis belt” in sub-Saharan Africa should get a meningococcal shot.
Medical problems that can increase your risk include:
Keep Your Distance From Infected People
The bacteria found in nose and throat secretions can also spread through coughing and sneezing. You could get meningitis if you’re close enough to an infected person to come in direct contact with these secretions. If someone you know has a respiratory infection, keep at least 3 feet away to stay out of the line of fire of any coughing, Vassallo says. Likewise, when you cough or sneeze, be kind to others: Bury your head in your elbow so that your spray goes into your sleeve and no further, then wash your hands. Keep in mind that bacterial meningitis isn’t that easily transmittable. You won’t get meningitis simply by breathing in the air where a sick friend or family member has been.
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What Causes Meningitis
Viral meningitis is caused by viruses. Bacterial meningitis is caused by bacteria.
Meningitis can also be caused by other organisms and some medicines, but this is rare.
Most forms of meningitis are contagious. The germs that cause it can be passed from one person to another through coughing and sneezing and through close contact.
How Is It Treated
Bacterial meningitis is treated with antibiotics in a hospital. You may also get dexamethasone, a type of steroid medicine. And you will be watched carefully to prevent serious problems such as hearing loss, seizures, and brain damage.
But viral meningitis is more common, and most people with this form of the illness get better in about 2 weeks. With mild cases, you may only need home treatment. Home treatment includes taking medicine for fever and pain and drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated.
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