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Meningitis Shot Available, Effective Year-Round
Date:10/25/2007

If your kids missed back-to-school crush, they can still get the lifesaving vaccine, experts say

THURSDAY, Oct. 25 (HealthDay News) -- At the beginning of every school year, concerned parents rush to get their kids the meningitis vaccine, with demand sometimes outpacing supply.

It doesn't have to be that way, experts say, since this potentially lifesaving shot is available year-round.

While August and September are fine times to vaccinate, the vaccine can also be gotten earlier or later, the experts note. That's important, they add, since meningitis can strike anytime.

"It's a year-round disease," said Lynn Bozof, executive director of the National Meningitis Association. "It can strike anyone at anytime."

Bozof should know: She lost her son Evan, then 20, to the disease in 1998.

"It actually peaks in the wintertime," added Donna Cary, a spokeswoman for Sanofi Pasteur Inc., of Swiftwater, Penn., the drug company that makes both of the meningitis vaccines currently available in the United States.

Meningococcal disease is a viral or bacterial infection, with the bacterial form being rarer but much more deadly. The disease is spread through air droplets and via direct contact with persons who are infected such as by kissing, sharing drinking glasses or coughing, according to the National Meningitis Association.

Every year in the United States, nearly 3,000 people come down with bacterial meningitis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and about 10 percent to 12 percent -- or about 300 to 360 cases -- are fatal. Those who survive may have complications such as brain damage or limb amputation.

Bacteria can attach to the nasal mucosal lining and mucosal lining in the throat and multiply there. They can then enter the bloodstream, traveling rapidly and causing organ damage.

Meningococcal meningitis is the term given to an inflammatio
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