Up to 15 percent of those affected die, while about one in five who survive ends up with permanent disabilities such as brain damage, hearing loss or limb amputations.
Typically, otherwise healthy children younger than 11 who develop meningitis have contracted the "B" strain. A vaccination for this type has not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is why that age group is not routinely immunized, Brady said. There are five strains of bacterial meningitis and each tends to strike a specific age group or population, according to background information in the study.
The "B" strain of bacterial meningitis is what sickened a small group of college students at Princeton University in New Jersey earlier this year and killed a student from Drexel University in Philadelphia who had been in close contact with Princeton students.
But immune-compromised children, along with those who will travel to the "meningitis belt" in sub-Saharan Africa or participate in the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, should now be immunized with available vaccines, which target meningitis strains more common among adolescents and college students, he said.
Additionally, the updated recommendations said booster doses should be given after three years in high-risk children whose last dose was before age 7, while booster doses should be administered after five years in children whose last dose was at age 7 or older.
Brady noted that the meningitis outbreaks on college campuses over the last year from the "B" strain are not unexpected, since conditions are ripe for the disease to be transmitted among those living communally in dorms or military barracks. Higher rates of smoking and alcohol consumption are also associated with greater risks of contracting meningitis.
A meningitis "B" vaccine licensed in other countries was provided to students at Pri
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