Herkimer County

Meningitis Vaccine



Meningococcal meningitis is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that can cause either severe swelling of the brain and spinal cord or a serious blood infection known as meningococcemia. Long-term effects of this illness can include brain damage, seizures, hearing loss and limb amputation. The number of cases among adolescents and young adults has increased in the past 10 years.

Studies show that certain college-age students, especially those living in dormitories, are at an increased risk for meningococcal meningitis compared to other persons in the same age group. Certain social behaviors, including drinking, smoking (both active and passive) and being in crowded situations like a dormitory or bar, may put college students at greater risk.

Types of meningitis:

There are two types of meningitis - viral and bacterial. The more common, viral meningitis, can be caused by a virus and is less serious. People with viral meningitis usually recover in a few days. Bacterial meningitis is caused by several bacteria, the most serious being Neisseria meningitidis, which causes meningococcal meningitis. While bacterial meningitis is rare, it can be fatal.

How meningococcal meningitis is spread:

Meningococcal meningitis is transmitted through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions, usually through close, personal contact (i.e., coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing a drinking glass, utensils or cigarettes). Meningococcal meningitis is not spread by casual contact such as breathing air where the infected person has been.

The gravity of meningococcal meningitis

About 3,000 cases of meningococcal meningitis are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. One in 10 cases is fatal. Because meningococcal meningitis can progress rapidly, often within hours, about 20 percent of those who survive suffer devastating side effects that can include brain damage, hearing loss and amputations. Meningococcal meningitis cases have increased in the U.S. since 1990, especially among adolescents and young adults.

The symptoms of meningococcal meningitis:

Symptoms of meningococcal meningitis may resemble the flu and can include a fever, headache and stiff neck. Other symptoms can consist of nausea, vomiting, confusion, sleepiness and sensitivity to light. Some people develop a rash mainly on their arms and legs. In some instances, seizures can occur. Since symptoms progress rapidly, it is critical that medical attention is sought immediately.

Meningococcal meningitis can be prevented:

A safe and effective vaccine is available to protect against four of the five most common serogroups of N. meningitis. Studies show that up to 80 percent of meningococcal meningitis cases can be prevented with the vaccine.

Recommendations from health officials:

Both the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that college students, especially those living in dormitories, be educated about meningococcal meningitis and the potential benefits of vaccination. Other undergraduates wishing to reduce their risk for meningococcal meningitis also can be vaccinated.

More about the vaccine:

The meningococcal vaccine provides protection against four of the five most common serogroups of N. meningitidis - A, C, Y and W-135 - and is 85 to 100 percent effective. The vaccine does not protect against serogroup B disease. Vaccination against meningococcal meningitis has been required for incoming recruits by the U.S. military since 1971, during which time it has virtually eliminated cases of the disease.

The vaccine is safe. As with all vaccines, there can be minor reactions, including pain and redness at the injection site or a mild fever. The vaccine is not recommended during pregnancy or if the individual has a compromised immune system or certain health conditions.

Duration of protection:

The vaccine is effective for approximately three to five years. College students who were immunized as college freshmen do not need to be re-immunized. However, freshmen immunized three or more years previously and planning to live in a dormitory should consider being re-immunized.

Availability of the vaccine:

The vaccine is available at Herkimer County Public Health, 301 North Washington Street - 3rd floor), Herkimer NY during the month of July at our Adult Walk In Clinics held every Tuesday and Thursday between the hours of 9:00 am to 11:00 am. If a student is under 18 years of age at the time of the vaccination, a written order to administer the vaccine from their physician is needed and this student would need to be accompanied by a parent/guardian.

If you have any questions, feel free to call us at (315)867-1430 between 8:00 am - 4:00 pm Monday - Friday.

Cost of the vaccine:

The vaccine costs $95.00, cash only please.

For more informationVisit a physician, the local public health department or the following web sites:
1. www.cdc.gov
2. www.acha.org


Questons and Answers (adobe acrobat reader required)

American Academy of Pediatrics. Policy statement: meningococcal disease prevention and control strategies for practice-based physicians. Pediatrics. 2000; 106(6):1500-1504.

Aventis Pasteur. Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine groups A, C, Y and W-135 combined: Menomune® - A/C/Y/W-135. Product Information. 2001.

Bruce MG, Rosenstein NE, Capparella JM, et al. JAMA. 2001; 286:688-693.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention and control of meningococcal disease. MMWR. 2000; 49(RR-7).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Disease information: meningococcal disease. www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/meningococcal_g.htm

Harrison LH, Pass MA, Mendelsohn AB, et al. JAMA. 2001:694-699.

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. The changing epidemiology of meningococcal disease in the U.S. with an emphasis on college health issues. Summary of roundtable discussion, 1999.

Rosenstein NE, Perkins, MA, Stephens DS, Popovic T, Hughes JM. N Engl J Med. 2001;344(18):1378-1388.