A meningitis shot will be required next year in Illinois schools for school children grades 6 to 12.
The new law goes into effect January 1st, but students can get the vaccine up until the first day of school for the 2014-2015 school year. The law requires the vaccine for those entering sixth grade and two booster doses upon entering 12th grade.
Morgan County Health Department Communicable Disease Coordinator Jacquie Barringer says the law basically follows recommendations already in place from the Center for Disease Control, which she says the health department has been following.
Barringer says it’s been a few years since the health department has seen a case of meningococcal meningitis.
“Oftentimes, we tend to use the term ‘meningitis’ as kind of a catch-all term. It can be a very frightening term, but it’s actually what is causing the meningitis- or the inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and the spinal cord, or the blood infection- it’s what is causing that, and in this particular case, the vaccine is to help reduce the risk of at least four types of nicerium meningitis,” says Barringer.
Barringer says about five to ten percent of the population may carry the bacteria at any given time without getting ill.
“Sometimes, that bacteria can cross what we call the blood-brain barrier and create this more frightening infection. When somebody gets this infection, although it is a bacteria and we can give antibiotics for it, this particular type of bacteria, as the antibiotics work on the bacteria, then the bacteria releases a toxin, and some very serious after-effects can happen,” she explains.
She says about 10 to 15 percent of people that get ill from the meningococcal bacteria die. About 11 to 19 percent lose their arms or legs or have problems with their nervous system.
Barringer says the law’s goal is to help boost the vaccine platform of adolescents.
“Help coincide that along with when they typically would be getting a school physical or a well-child visit,” she says. “And the second one is to try to help boost that immunity to nicerium meningitis for when these kids are going to college.”
She says with meningitis, highest-risk folks are young infants and people in congregate areas like dorms or military barracks.
“The bacteria transmits from person to person through direct contact with noses and throat secretions, such as if somebody who had the bacteria was to sneeze or cough directly into somebody’s face,” says Barringer.
“It’s also recommended not to be sharing straws, and- hopefully they’re not smoking- but cigarettes, and glasses and drinks. This is an age group who oftentimes does [these activities],” she continues.
Barringer says the Morgan County Health Department has meningitis vaccines in stock. While the department doesn’t have clinics for specific vaccines, there are walk-in services for vaccinations Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.