Steamboat Springs Recent events in the community have heightened parents' fears about meningococcal disease. It is critical that parents have accurate information in order to understand the disease.
Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial infection of the blood or spinal fluid. It can cause meningitis (inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain or spinal cord) and bloodstream infections. Symptoms of meningococcal disease are usually abrupt and may include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rash and mental status changes. It is a serious illness and can lead to amputations, brain damage or death.
Meningococcal disease is not common. During the past five years (2003 to 2007), an average of 21 meningococcal disease cases were reported each year in Colorado. There have been seven reported cases of meningococcal disease in Moffat & Routt Counties in the past 10 years (1998 to 2007). Infants younger than 12 months of age have the highest rate of meningococcal disease. Nationally, about 20 percent of cases are among adolescents 14 to 24 years of age with cases in this age group peaking at age 18. Most cases are not linked with another case.
Meningococcal disease may be spread to others, but this is not common. People who may have had contact with the infected person's saliva are at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease. The disease can be spread through kissing, sharing water bottles, or sharing cups or eating utensils. The risk of getting meningococcal disease through casual contact, such as sharing a common space, is extremely low.
There is a safe and effective vaccine to protect you and your family from meningococcal disease. Meningococcal vaccine is recommended for children ages 11 to 18 years old and for those with an increased risk for developing the disease, including: college freshmen living in dormitories, persons with certain medical conditions, military recruits, travelers to particular areas of the world, and certain laboratory workers.
Keep these preventative measures in mind to protect your family:
1. Never share water bottles, cups, etc., and teach your children the same.
2. Follow the recommended vaccination schedules for everyone in your family.
3. Stay home & keep your children home if they are ill.
4. Always wash your hands vigorously with soap and hot water.
5. Talk to your health care provider about meningococcal disease if you have concerns.
6. Seek information from reliable sources such as from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (www.cdc.gov) or the state or local health departments
The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association provides the meningococcal vaccination for adolescents, 11 to 18 years of age, on a sliding scale of cost up to $14. Vaccinations are done by appointment or on a drop-in basis on Thursdays, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Please call 879-1632 for details on the Thursday clinics.
Janice Poirot, public health nurse