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Horizon Public Health column: It takes two vaccines

It takes two different types of vaccines to help protect against the five vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis.

Meningitis is a life-threatening bacterial infection that can affect the lining of the brain and spinal cord, or it can cause an infection in the bloodstream — or both. It is mainly caused by five types of meningococcal bacteria — A, B, C, W and Y.

Meningitis is unpredictable and attacks without warning. Early symptoms can often be mistaken for the flu; high fever, stiff neck, vomiting, headache, exhaustion or purplish rash.

Unfortunately it is more common than you think. It can affect all ages and it can occur anywhere, but it is more common in people between the ages of 16-23.

The bacteria live within the nose and throat and spread easily from person to person by sharing anything that comes in contact with salvia: eating utensils; water or soda bottles; being in close quarters; being sneezed or coughed upon; and kissing.

The really scary part is it can kill in a matter of hours. Even when it is treated, meningococcal disease kills 10-15 infected people out of 100. Of those who survive, about 10-20 out of every 100 will suffer disabilities such as hearing loss, brain damage, kidney damage, amputations, nervous system problems, or severe scars from skin grafts.

Most 11- and 12-year-olds get the MenACWY vaccine because it is now required before seventh grade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the meningitis B vaccination may be administered to young adults 16-23 years old, preferably 16-18 years old, to help protect against meningitis B. MenB vaccine became available in 2014; to date, few people are protected against the B group of meningitis.

If your children from the ages of 11-23 have not received both vaccines, they are not fully immunized against meningitis. It takes two!

For more information, visit cdc.gov/meningococcal/index.html or call Horizon Public Health at 320-208-6672.

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