On call: Vaccine may help control a lethal infection

On call

Vaccine may help control a lethal infection

Q. My 18-year-old daughter has just been accepted at college. She is up to date on all her immunizations except for a meningitis vaccination, which the university health service recommends but does not require. Do you think she should get the shot?

A. Bacterial meningitis is a life-threatening infection of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Over the years, three types of bacteria have accounted for most of the cases in Americans. A vaccine is available for each, but their effectiveness varies.

Until recently, Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) was a major cause of meningitis and other serious infections in young children, but a vaccine has nearly eliminated it. The vaccine should be given to all infants, since children who are not immunized are still vulnerable.

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