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Back to school: check immunizations for adolescents, college freshmen

Tuesday, August 02, 2011
CONTACT: Bonnie Jameson, (605) 773-3737          
Back to school: check immunizations for adolescents, college freshmen 
PIERRE, S.D. – A state health official is urging parents to make sure their high school and college freshmen get a meningitis immunization before the school year starts. Parents are also encouraged to get a booster dose of pertussis, or whooping cough, vaccine for their 11-12 year old children.
“South Dakota parents do a good job keeping their infants and toddlers appropriately immunized but too many aren’t aware that adolescents also need vaccinations,” said Bonnie Jameson, Disease Prevention Administrator for the Department of Health. “Now is the time to make sure they’re up to date on their meningitis and pertussis vaccinations.”
College freshmen living in dorms and unvaccinated kids entering high school are among the high-risk groups for meningococcal disease and should be vaccinated.
The whooping cough vaccine series is recommended for children at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years. A booster dose is recommended at 11-12 years as immunity begins to wane.
A bacterial infection, meningococcal disease is an inflammation of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, vomiting and a rash. Prompt treatment can prevent disability and death. Ten to 14 percent of people with the disease die and up to 19 percent of survivors may suffer permanent disabilities such as hearing loss, limb amputation or brain disease. South Dakota has reported 2 cases of meningococcal disease to date in 2011, one child and one elderly adult.
Whooping cough is also a serious illness. It causes uncontrollable coughing, rib fractures, pneumonia, loss of consciousness and even death. Young children are at highest risk, with two-thirds of those under age 1 who get it needing hospitalization. There have been four cases reported in South Dakota to date in 2011.
Meningococcal vaccine is available from family health care providers and campus student health centers. The department provides the vaccine for those 11-18 years of age who are eligible for the federal Vaccines for Children Program (Medicaid eligible, Native American or Alaskan Native, uninsured or underinsured). The vaccine is free for these children but providers may charge an administration fee.
The department provides the childhood series of whooping cough vaccine and the booster dose free for 11-12 year olds. Providers may charge an administration fee.
To find a vaccine provider, see http://doh.sd.gov/LocalOffices/Vaccine.aspx. Learn more about meningitis or whooping cough at http://doh.sd.gov/DiseaseFacts/.