Prevention of Meningitis is Key For Teens, Young Adults

Prevention of meningitis is key for teens, young adults

By Dr. Wendy Barton, pediatrician, ThedaCarePhysicians-Pediatrics in Appleton

Meningitis is an infection that causes swelling of the tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord, so it can be a devastating illness. One of the most significant bacteria to cause this infection is Neisseria meningitidis. This germ kills 10-15 of every 100 people who contract the infection, and of the survivors, 10-20 of those 100 will be left with disabilities. That is why prevention is the key.

For the past 10 years, as part of the routinely recommended vaccines for all children and adolescents, a vaccine has been given that creates very good immunity against four strains of this bacteria. MenB is a new vaccine now available that targets a deadly strain of N meningitidis that is not in that original vaccine and is known to be linked to outbreaks of this infection on college campuses.

Currently the MenB vaccine is recommended mainly for specific individuals: immunodeficiency patients; those at risk of exposure due to an outbreak; and lab technicians who work with the bacteria. The vaccine provides some protection as early as a month after the first dose. For approximately 67 percent of the patients who receive the second dose, the immunity persists for one to two years.

The vaccine is approved for people age 10-25, with the best ages being 16-18 years, or those who will be heading off to college soon. The CDC recommends individuals talk with their physician about the MenB vaccine to discuss this further.

Dr. Barton is a pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics in Appleton. To find a doctor at the Appleton clinic, call 920.954.2551, in Neenah call 920.727.9982 or in Darboy at 920.358.1910.