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Meningococcal vaccine available

Dr. Rex Archer, the director of the Health Department, wants college-bound students and their parents to be aware of the threat and danger of meningococcal disease, and the availability of a vaccine that could reduce the risk of catching meningitis. The recent case of a University of Kansas student contracting meningococcal meningitis is an example of how dangerous it can be.

Meningococcal meningitis is a rare, but serious illness caused by a bacterial infection of the spinal cord and brain. About 2,500 Americans get this disease each year. Between 10-15 percent of these victims die, with another 10-15 percent sustaining permanent damage.

“Anyone can get meningococcal disease but college freshmen, particularly those who live in group housing such as residence halls, have an increased risk. For that reason, my first child got the vaccination when he went off to college, and my second child will get hers when she goes,” Dr. Archer said.

“Those students planning to live with a large number of people need to learn about this disease and the potential benefits of vaccination,” Dr. Archer added.

Dr. Archer joins the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Health Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics in their efforts to educate students and parents of the availability of the meningococcal vaccine.

The meningococcus germ is spread by direct, close contact with nose or throat discharges of an infected person. The symptoms (fever, headache, vomiting, stiff neck, rash, and drowsiness) may appear two to 10 days after exposure.

Those interested in getting the meningococcal vaccine are advised to contact their physician or local public health agency.

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