Dr. Campbell: Vaccinating NC's students against meningitis - WNCN: News, Weather

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Dr. Campbell: Vaccinating NC's students against meningitis

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© Meningitis under the microscope © Meningitis under the microscope
RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina may now require meningitis vaccines for all incoming seventh graders and another booster shot for ninth graders. Under a new rule proposed by the N.C. public health service, all students in the state would have to be vaccinated in order to attend class.

There have been nearly 1,200 cases nationally each year. This year in North Carolina, a student at East Chapel Hill High School died from what was thought to be meningitis.

Meningitis is an illness caused by either a virus or bacteria. Viral meningitis is rarely fatal and is usually treated symptomatically with supportive care. However, bacterial meningitis can be rapidly fatal. It is caused by a bacteria known as meningocccus, or Neisseria meningitidis.

This bacteria can cause inflammation of the lining around the brain (meningitis) and can also causes sepsis (an infection in the bloodstream). It is highly fatal if untreated and can rapidly progress once the infection begins. It is one of the leading causes of death in both developed and under-developed countries. Even with treatment with antibiotics, one in 10 people who are diagnosed with meningitis will die. Survivors can lose limbs, lose hearing, or have permanent brain damage.

The vaccine for meningitis is incredibly effective. After the shot, nearly 90 percent of patients are immune for several years – after about three to four years another booster shot is required.

Meningitis is very contagious. It is spread by casual contact and saliva. Drinking from the same glass, sneezing, kissing, cough, and prolonged general contact with an infected person is another way to catch meningitis.

Symptoms of meningitis can include a stiff, sore neck with high fever. Other symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, and if bacteria is in the bloodstream, a classic rash. When a healthcare provider suspects meningitis, they should initiate antibiotics immediately—even before diagnostic studies have returned. We diagnose meningitis definitively with a lumbar puncture or spinal tap.

It is important to remember that once exposed to meningitis, the incubation period can be anywhere from two to 10 days before symptoms begin. If your child is exposed to a known case, you need to seek medical attention immediately. Most doctors place exposed patients on antibiotics as a precaution.

For more information, here is a link to the CDC.

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

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