Meningitis immunization recommended for freshmen

Meningitis immunization recommended for freshmen
The state Department of Health urges parents to add meningitis immunizations to their back-to-school preparations.

College freshmen living in dormitories and unvaccinated high school freshmen are among those at highest risk for meningococcal disease and should be vaccinated.

Meningococcal disease is an inflammation of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord that is caused by infection with bacteria.

"Immunization is the best protection against meningococcal disease," said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. "This is a disease that progresses rapidly and it can be fatal."

Symptoms of meningococcal meningitis can include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, vomiting and a rash. Prompt treatment is important to prevent disability and death. Ten to 14 percent of people with meningococcal disease die, and among survivors, up to 19 percent may suffer long-term permanent disabilities including hearing loss, limb amputation or brain disease.

Meningococcal disease strikes up to 2,800 Americans each year, killing 300. Since 1993, South Dakota has had an average of seven cases per year.

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