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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Thousands Take Antibiotics Following Ohio Meningitis Outbreak

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Currently, a CDC official is in the Alliance, Ohio, area -- where the outbreak began -- to offer guidance to local public health officials. Congeni says there is no reason for the people in nearby communities to be alarmed.

For some reason, children in their second decade of life are particularly susceptible to meningitis. Fortunately, there is an effective vaccine against this type of the disease. It's considered quite safe, but because the cost runs up to $50 dollars and the infection is relatively rare, the CDC says the shot isn't required.

However, the agency does suggest the vaccine for freshmen students heading off to live in dormitories. The CDC says they are "a group found to be at a modestly increased risk of risk" for getting the disease. "Most physicians, I would say, are not even discussing it with parents. ... I think it's wrong," says Congeni.

"The recommendations have been made that we cannot vaccinate everybody, but I think if we better understand the risk groups, then I think we'll be ahead," Chris Taylor, PhD, of the respiratory diseases branch of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

Researchers are also developing a better vaccine, since the current one is about 30 years old.

The vaccine only works for about five years before requiring a booster shot, and although it stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies, it's not as precise as some of the newer approaches that sensitize other key defense mechanisms in the body, which might keep the bacteria from getting a foothold in the bloodstream.

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