Parents of pre-teens and college freshmen should check their kids' immunizations before the school year starts, says a state health official.
"Parents should know that babies and toddlers aren't the only ones who need immunizations," said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health.
Kightlinger said college freshmen living in dorms and unvaccinated kids entering high school are at high risk for meningococcal disease and should be vaccinated.
A bacterial infection, meningococcal disease is an inflammation of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, vomiting and a rash. Prompt treatment can prevent disability and death. Ten to 14 percent of people with the disease die and up to 19 percent of survivors may suffer permanent disabilities such as hearing loss, limb amputation or brain disease. South Dakota typically reports 3 cases of meningococcal disease a year. To date in 2012, there have been no cases reported.
A pertussis, or whooping cough, vaccine booster dose is recommended at 11-12 years when immunity begins to wane. The initial pertussis series is given to children at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years.
Whooping cough is a serious illness that causes uncontrollable coughing, rib fractures, pneumonia, loss of consciousness and even death. Young children are at highest risk, with two-thirds of those under age 1 who get it needing hospitalization. There have been six pertussis cases reported in South Dakota to date in 2012.
Meningococcal vaccine is available from family health care providers and campus student health centers. The department provides the vaccine for those 11-18 years of age who are eligible for the federal Vaccines for Children Program (Medicaid eligible, Native American or Alaskan Native, uninsured or underinsured). The vaccine is free for these children but providers may charge an administration fee.
The department provides the childhood series of whooping cough vaccine and the booster dose free for 11-12 year olds. Providers may charge an administration fee.
To find a vaccine provider, see http://doh.sd.gov/LocalOffices/Vaccine.aspx. Learn more about meningitis or whooping cough at http://doh.sd.gov/DiseaseFacts/.
Improving immunization rates is a key objective of the department's Health 2020 initiative.