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CDC Recommends Meningitis B Vaccine to Broader Group

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) committee on vaccines has expanded its recommendation to parents for immunization against meningitis B, a rare but also potentially deadly strain of the virus.

The previous guideline by the committee was limited to people at risk for getting the disease, such as lab workers and students at colleges with outbreaks of three or more cases. Close contact spreads the disease, thus increasing students’ exposure, since they live together in tight spaces like dormitory rooms and apartments. The committee now broadens its recommendation to encourage all young people between the ages of 16 and 23 to speak with their doctor about whether the shot is a good idea for them, too.

With this new guideline comes the likelihood that health insurance companies will pay for the injection.

Infectious disease specialist, Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University, is a member of the CDC committee that advises federal health officials on vaccine recommendations. Schaffner stated that the revised recommendation is “a signal to all private insurers that this vaccine should be covered.” It also means that the Vaccines for Children Program, a federally-funded immunization program for lower income families, will likely cover the cost of the vaccine. Colleges and universities will now be faced with the decision of requiring the vaccination against meningitis B for all incoming freshman.

The bacteria that cause meningitis are common in the environment, and might also be found in the nose and respiratory tract. Meningitis in saliva and mucous can be transported during kissing, coughing, or two or more people sharing a drink from one cup or bottle.

The first symptoms of meningitis are cold, flu, headache, nausea, and high fever. Later, the microbes invade the brain and spinal cord causing inflammation and swelling of the meninges. The danger is that the symptoms may escalate quickly and result in brain injury.

Despite treatment with antibiotics, 10 to 15 percent of patients still die.