It only takes hours for the meningococcus bacteria to kill a child who was previously perfectly healthy. It is the reason the word “meningitis” strikes fear in the heart of parents everywhere. Most meningitis is caused by viruses and though it can be severe, it is not usually fatal. When we speak specifically bout infections caused by the bacteria, Neisseria Meningitidis, it is a whole different story. It is treatable, but sadly it affects the body so fast and intensely, that by the time anyone even realizes the child has more then a flu bug, it may be too late. The toxin produced by these bacteria poisons blood vessels making them ineffective and causing cells throughout the body to die. The bacteria are passed through close contact usually from people who carry it in their nose. These carriers have no symptoms and may or may not ever become sick from it. Living with someone who carries menningococcus greatly increases risk for severe infection which is why outbreaks have been seen in military barracks and college dorms, etc.
There are several types of this bacterium. Effective vaccines have been available for 4 of the common types for several years. Menomune, Menactra, Menveo all provide protection against types A, C, Y and W135. MenHibrix prevents infection with types C and Y. Unfortunately; there has not been an effective vaccine for one of the most prevalent types of this bacterium known as serogroup B.
Just last Month (Oct 2014) the FDA finally approved a vaccine that provides protection against serogroup B meningococcal infection. Known by the brand name Trumenba this vaccine is available for children aged 10-25 years. Similar to the hepatitis B vaccine and other vaccines, a series of 3 shots is recommended for full protection. Side effects are also similar to most other vaccines (pain from the injection, fatigue, headache, muscle pain and chills).
Vaccines are the only way to protect your child from this infection.
- MenHibrix (types C and Y only) is available for ages 6 weeks to 18 months. It also protects against another dangerous bacteria known as Haemophilus Influenza type B.
- Menveo (types A, C, Y, W135) is approved for ages 2 months and above.
- Menactra (types A, C, Y W135) is approved for kids older than 8 months.
- Truemnba (type B) is approved for 10-25 years of age
Vaccination is recommended for all children, but the age of that recommendation varies and is based on whether your child is at high risk for infection. Discuss your concerns and options for your child with your pediatrician.