Parents urged to vaccinate teens against meningitis - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Health officials urge parents to vaccinate teens against meningitis

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Less than half of teens and pre-teens in San Diego County are up-to-date on vaccinations for meningococcal meningitis, a disease that can be fatal, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported Monday.

"Meningococcal meningitis is rare, but it is a terrible and potentially deadly disease," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer.

An average of 11 people in San Diego County annually catch the illness, which causes inflammation in the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord -- with one fatal case in the past five years, according to HHSA.

The fatality rate nationally is 10-15 percent, and of the survivors, many lose their arms or legs, become deaf, develop nervous system problems or suffer seizures or strokes, the agency reported.

The disease is most common in teenagers ages 15 to 19 and college freshmen who live in dormitories. The bacteria can be spread by sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils or water bottles; kissing; smoking; and living in close quarters.

Wooten recommended that parents make sure their children are current with immunizations for influenza, whooping cough, chickenpox, and Human papillomavirus.

"Meningitis and other adolescent diseases can be prevented," Wooten said. "Vaccinating your children is the best line of defense against disease.

Only 47 percent of youth in San Diego County are current with meningitis vaccines, compared to 30 percent for the flu and 81 percent for chickenpox, according to the HHSA.

A college student is speaking Monday about a meningitis scare that almost cost him his life.
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