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CDC Warns of Spike in Hib-Linked Meningitis Among Children
Date:1/23/2009

5 cases, 1 fatal, in Minnesota, could be linked to shortage of vaccine, they say,,,,

FRIDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Over the past year, five Minnesota children have fallen ill -- one fatally -- with a germ that can cause meningitis, experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced at a Friday press conference.

That's the highest number of cases recorded since 1992, when the vaccine for Haemophilus influenzae Serotype b (Hib) was first introduced, the CDC officials said. The last recorded death from Hib was in 1991.

"This is a situation we are quite disturbed about," said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, the Minnesota state epidemiologist. "The decrease in herd immunity we're seeing is likely related to the vaccine shortage."

"We've had [vaccine] supply problems during the last year with one U.S. manufacturer of the vaccine, Merck," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The shortage may have played a role in flagging immunity among children, the experts said. "Community protection does not appear to be holding right now," Schuchat confirmed.

Because of the shortage, health officials had been deferring booster shots of the vaccine, normally given at 12 to 15 months. The primary series of the vaccine consists of three shots given at 2, 4 and 6 months of age.

But officials are reporting that some infants are not completing this primary series.

CDC officials are urging parents and health-care providers to ensure that infants finish their primary series of shots. They believe there is enough vaccine to cover that need. Schuchat added that she expected that the vaccine supply would return to higher levels by the summer.

"We don't know if the problem is occurring in other states, but we want to heighten awareness among doctors," Schuchat said. "We are trying to find out if the problem is bigger."
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