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FDA Approves New Meningitis Vaccine

New Vaccine May Help Protect College Students From Bacterial Meningitis

WebMD Health News

Jan. 19, 2005 -- The FDA has approved a new, single-dose vaccine that may help protect college students from bacterial meningitis, a condition that frequently spreads on college campuses.

The agency has approved the Menactra vaccine to protect against the potentially deadly infection. The bacteria, known as Neisseria meningitidis, causes a rare but serious infection known as meningococcal disease.

Bacterial meningitis infects between 1,500 and 3,400 Americans each year, and about 10% of those who develop the disease will die. Of those who survive, up to one in five suffers from permanent disabilities, such as hearing loss or brain damage. Vaccination against the bacteria is the most effective way to reduce the risk of death and permanent disability caused by meningococcus bacteria.

Adolescents and young adults are at increased risk for contracting bacterial meningitis because they live in close quarters in dormitories and residence halls. Infection is usually acquired through intimate contact such as kissing an infected person, sharing food, or living in close contact with an infected person.

Adolescents and young adults account for almost a third of cases. In young people, those aged 15-24 also are most likely to die from the disease.

The CDC recommends routine immunization of all adolescents and college freshmen living in residence halls.

The FDA approved Menactra based on clinical trials involving more than 7,500 adolescents and adults that showed a single shot of the vaccine was powerful enough to protect the students from bacterial meningitis throughout their college years.

Menactra's manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur says the vaccine is the first meningitis vaccine approved for use in the U.S. that protects against four of the five common strains of the bacteria (A, C, Y, and W-135) which cause the disease.

The most common side effects of the vaccine were pain, redness and irritation at the injection site, as well as headache, fatigue, and malaise.

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