Keeping up with immunizations

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As schools let out for the summer, Linn County Public Health reminds parents to ensure that their kids are up-to-date with immunizations. This fall, a new meningococcal vaccination requirement will take effect for all students enrolling in 7th and 12th grades. This requirement was approved by the Iowa Legislature in 2016.

The new mandate requires a one-time dose of meningococcal (A, C, W, Y) vaccine received on or after 10 years of age for students in grades 7 and above, if born after Sept. 15, 2004; and two doses of meningococcal (A, C, W, Y) vaccines with 1 dose received on or after 16 years of age for students in grade 12, if born after Sept. 15, 1999; or one dose if received when students are 16 years-of-age or older. This requirement is effective for the 2017-2018 school year and, parents should plan now by making sure children meet this immunization requirement.

Meningitis is inflammation (swelling) of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Bacterial infections are the most serious, and although uncommon, death can occur within hours of infection. Meningitis survivors may suffer permanent disabilities, such as brain damage, hearing and vision loss, epilepsy, limb loss, and learning disabilities. Infants less than one year old and adolescents 16 through 23 years of age have higher rates of disease than other age groups.

Schools, college campuses, and other community settings where groups of people gather together have reported meningococcal disease outbreaks. When people are in close quarters, germs are more easily spread by coughing, sneezing, or sharing respiratory and/or throat secretions. In recent years, several individuals in Linn County have suffered meningitis infection.

In 1998, the College Community School District initiated mass antibiotic clinics after several students became ill with meningitis. In 2000, a Linn County teen died of the disease. In 2009, a Linn-Mar school district student was hospitalized, after a bacterial meningitis diagnosis. Again, in 2009, a Kirkwood Community College student died after contracting bacterial meningitis. Immunizations provide a vital public health prevention strategy! Meningococcal vaccinations can protect adolescents from illness and death. Nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were about 375 cases of bacterial meningitis reported in 2015.

Meningitis is a serious, life threatening illness. Our law makers have made a commitment to protect our youth and young adults by passing the bill requiring meningitis vaccination. Therefore, we urge parents to vaccinate their children. You have several months before the start of 2017-2018 academic school year to make the crucial move to call your child’s primary care provider and schedule an appointment for all recommended and required immunizations.

Immunization benefits everybody: our kids, families and communities.

For more information regarding vaccinations, contact Linn County Public Health at (319) 892-6000 or visit http://www.linncounty.org/health.

• Pramod Dwivedi is health director of Linn County Public Health or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LCPublicHealth

Linn County Public Health is the coalition chair for the Linn County Immunization Coalition. More information can be found for the coalition at: http://www.linncountyimmunization.org/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LinnCountyImmunizationCoalition

You can connect with Pramod Dwivedi on Twitter @pdwivedi9

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