Nation & World News

Princeton Meningitis Cases Spur Emergency Import Of Vaccine

By Mark Memmott on November 17th, 2013

A seventh case since March of bacterial meningitis among students at New Jersey’s Princeton University has federal health officials considering the use of “an emergency vaccine,” The Star-Ledger writes.

“Government health officials,” reports NBC News, “said Friday they have agreed to import Bexsero, a vaccine licensed only in Europe and Australia that protects against meningitis B, a strain not covered by the shots recommended for college students in the U.S.”

The network adds that:

” ‘This is a bad disease and we know how devastating it is,’ Dr. Thomas Clark, acting head of the Centers for Disease Control’s meningitis and vaccine preventable diseases branch, told NBC News. ‘A lot of us had a gut feeling that there would be more cases and we should get the ball rolling.’

“The unprecedented move could aim to inoculate the nearly 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students at the Ivy League school in hopes of stopping the spread of an illness that kills 10 percent or more of teens and young adults who get it.”

According to the Star-Ledger, CDC officials earlier this week got the OK from the Food and Drug Administration to bring the vaccine into the U.S. “Decisions about how it will be distributed or when it will be available have not been made,” the newspaper added.

The CDC’s webpage about the disease says that:

— “Bacterial meningitis is usually severe. While most people with meningitis recover, it can cause serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities.”

— “In the United States, about 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis, including 500 deaths, occurred each year between 2003–2007.”

— “Fortunately, most of the bacteria that cause meningitis are not as contagious as diseases like the common cold or the flu. Also, the bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been.”

— “Sometimes the bacteria that cause meningitis spread to other people. This usually happens when there is close or long contact with a sick person in the same household or daycare center, or if they had direct contact with a patient’s oral secretions (such as a boyfriend or girlfriend).”

— “Meningitis infection may show up in a person by a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It will often have other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light [and] altered mental status (confusion).”

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