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Maine students must be vaccinated against meningitis

Maine middle and high school students should be vaccinated against meningitis beginning in the 2018-1919 school year.

The new rule will apply to students entering seventh and twelfth grade, for whom vaccination was recommended but not necessary. Bacterial meningitis is a rare but potentially fatal disease in which the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord become inflamed. There is no vaccine for the most common viral meningitis, which has milder symptoms.

"Meningococcal disease (bacterial meningitis) is a rare but dangerous disease that attacks healthy young people without warning," said a news alert from the Maine Department of Education. "It can affect all ages, but adolescents and young adults are at higher risk of contracting the disease."

Symptoms include stiff neck, severe headaches and fever.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported a case of bacterial meningitis in 2016 – the most recent available statistics for the disease – and typically five or fewer cases per year in the last decade.

Outbreaks of meningitis are more frequent when people live in enclosed spaces, such as college dorms.

Nationwide, there were 370 cases of bacterial meningitis in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"These changes align Maine's immunization rules with current national recommendations to better protect the health of all people in Maine," said the Maine Department of Education. The Maine meningitis vaccination rate for adolescents between 13 and 17 years old was 83.5 percent in 2016, compared to the national average of 82.2 percent.

The US CDC UU He strongly recommends vaccination because bacterial meningitis is a rapidly fatal illness disease.

"Doctors treat meningococcal disease with antibiotics, but fast medical care is extremely important, Keeping up with the recommended vaccines is the best defense against meningococcal disease," said the USC CDC.

Maine also recently required a pertussis booster shot for students entering seventh grade. Whooping cough – or whooping cough – is a persistent public health problem in Maine, with 410 cases in 2017. Sanford schools reported an outbreak, with a total of six cases in elementary and middle schools, on April 11.

An outbreak is defined as three or more people sick with an infectious disease in one place, such as a school, church or dormitory. Maine had the third highest rate of pertussis in the country in 2016, national comparisons of the last year were available.

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