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Parent Alert - Health Information Update

The Commissioner of Education, Jim Nelson, has instructed all school districts in the state of Texas to provide information relating to bacterial meningitis to its students and their parents. This is in compliance with HB 3884.




BACTERIAL MENINGITIS



WHAT IS MENINGITIS?
Meningitis is an inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by
viruses, parasites, fungi, and bacteria. Viral meningitis is most common and the least serious.
Meningitis caused by bacteria is the most likely form of the disease to cause serious, long-term
complications. It is an uncommon disease but requires urgent treatment with antibiotics to prevent
permanent damage or death.

Bacterial meningitis can be caused by multiple organisms. Two common types are Streptococcus
pneumoniae, with over 80 serogroups that can cause illness, and Neisseria meningitidis, with five
serogroups that most commonly cause meningitis.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Someone with bacterial meningitis will become very ill. The illness may develop over one or two
days, but it can also rapidly progress in a matter of hours. Not everyone with meningitis will have
the same symptoms.

Children (over 1 year old) and adults with meningitis may have a severe headache, high temperature,
vomiting, sensitivity to bright lights, neck stiffness, and drowsiness or confusion. In both
children and adults, there may be a rash of tiny, red-purple spots. These can occur anywhere on the
body.

The diagnosis of bacterial meningitis is based on a combination of symptoms and laboratory results.

HOW SERIOUS IS BACTERIAL MENINGITIS?
If it is diagnosed early and treated promptly, most people make a complete recovery. If left
untreated or treatment is delayed, bacterial meningitis can be fatal, or a person may be left with
permanent disability.

HOW IS BACTERIAL MENINGITIS SPREAD?
Fortunately, none of the bacteria that cause meningitis are as contagious as diseases like the
common cold or the flu, and they are not spread by simply breathing the air where a person with
meningitis has been. The germs live naturally in the back of our noses and throats, but they do not
live for long outside the body. They are spread when people exchange saliva (such as by kissing;
sharing drinking containers, utensils, or cigarettes) or when people cough or sneeze without
covering their mouth and nose.

The bacteria do not cause meningitis in most people. Instead, most people become carriers of the
bacteria for days, weeks or even months. The bacteria rarely overcome the body’s immune system and
cause meningitis or another serious illness.

HOW CAN BACTERIAL MENINGITIS BE PREVENTED?

Vaccination

Bacterial meningitis caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitidis may be prevented
through vaccination. The vaccine which protects against Streptococcus pneumoniae
is called pneumococcal conjugate vaccine or PCV. This vaccine is recommended by the Advisory
Council on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for children in the first year of life. Neisseria
meningitidis is prevented through two types of vaccines. The first is a meningococcal conjugate
vaccine which protects against four serogroups A, C, W, and Y and is referred to as MCV4. The
second is a vaccine against Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B and is referred to as MenB.

The ACIP recommends MCV4 for children at age 11-12 years, with a booster dose at 16-18 years. In
Texas, one dose of MCV4 given at or after age 11 years is required for children in 7th-12th grades.
One dose of MCV4 received in the previous five years is required in Texas for those under the age
of 22 years and enrolling in college. Teens and young adults (16-23 years of age) may be vaccinated
with MenB. This vaccine is not required for school or college enrollment in Texas.

Vaccines to protect against bacterial meningitis are safe and effective. Common side effects
include redness and pain at the injection site lasting up to two days. Immunity develops about 1-2
weeks after the vaccines are given and lasts for five years to life depending on vaccine.

Healthy Habits

Do not share food, drinks, utensils, toothbrushes, or cigarettes. Wash your hands. Limit the number
of persons you kiss. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Maintaining healthy
habits, like getting plenty of rest and not having close contact with people who are sick, also
helps.

WHO IS AT RISK FOR BACTERIAL MENINGITIS?

Certain groups are at increased risk for bacterial meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis.
These risk factors include HIV infection, travel to places where meningococcal disease is common
(such
as certain countries in Africa and in Saudi Arabia), and college students living in a dormitory.
Other risk factors include having a previous viral infection, living in a crowded household, or
having an underlying chronic illness.

Children ages 11-15 years have the second highest rate of death from bacterial meningitis caused by
Neisseria meningitidis. Also, children ages 16-23 years have the second highest rates of disease
caused by Neisseria meningiditis.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF YOU THINK YOU OR A FRIEND MIGHT HAVE BACTERIAL MENINGITIS?
Seek prompt medical attention.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Your school nurse, family doctor, and the staff at your local or regional health department office
are excellent sources for information on all infectious diseases. You may also call your family
doctor or local health department office to ask about meningococcal vaccine.

Additional  Resources
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.html Texas
Department of State Health Services (DSHS):
Immunization    Unit:  https://www.dshs.texas.gov/immunize/PreteenVaccines.aspx
Infectious   Disease   Control: https://dshs.texas.gov/IDCU/disease/meningitis/Meningitis.aspx

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