Parents Recommended For Meningitis Immunization For Pre-Teens, College Freshmen

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Meningitis Immunization For Pre-Teens, College Freshmen

Parents should add meningitis immunizations to their back-to-school preparations.

"The vaccine is routinely recommended for kids ages 11-12 but college freshmen living in dorms and unvaccinated high school freshmen are among those at highest risk for meningococcal disease and should be vaccinated," said Bonnie Jameson, Disease Prevention Administrator for the Department of Health. "This disease progresses rapidly and can be fatal. Immunization is the best protection against it."


Meningococcal disease is an inflammation of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord that is caused by infection with bacteria. Symptoms 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. In 2006, South Dakota reported 4 cases of invasive meningococcal disease and 2 suspect cases. To date in 2007, there have been three cases reported, two in college age students.

Students should check with their family health care provider or student health center to receive the vaccine. The vaccine is routinely recommended for all children 11-12 years of age, unvaccinated children at entry to high school (age 15 years) and all college freshmen living in a dormitory.

The department provides the vaccine for children 11 - 18 years of age who are eligible for the federal Vaccines for Children Program which covers children who are Medicaid eligible, Native American or Alaskan Native, uninsured or underinsured.