Immunization records should be checked prior to school’s start
PIERRE — A state health official recommends parents check the immunizations of their pre-teens and college freshmen before the school year gets under way.
“College freshmen living in dorms and unvaccinated kids entering high school are at high risk for meningococcal disease and need to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “Pertussis cases are also on the rise, so it’s important that pre-teens get that booster shot.”
Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, vomiting and a rash. Ten to 14 percent of people with the disease die and up to 19 percent may suffer permanent disabilities such as hearing loss, amputation or brain disease. South Dakota has reported two cases in 2014.
Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is highly contagious and spreads through the air by cough. Early symptoms resemble a common cold, including sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild cough. The cough becomes more severe and is characterized by episodes of numerous rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched whoop. South Dakota has reported 65 cases year-to-date.
Meningococcal vaccine is available from family health care providers and campus student health centers. The department provides it for those 11-18 years of age who are eligible for the federal Vaccines for Children Program (Medicaid eligible, American Indian or Alaskan Native, uninsured or underinsured).
Pertussis vaccine is given in a series of doses at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months of age and between 4 and 6 years of age. Because immunity wanes over time, a booster dose is recommended for kids 11-12 years of age and for adults. The department provides the childhood series of the vaccine and the booster dose free for 11- to 12-year-olds.
Find a vaccine provider or learn more about meningitis or whooping cough at doh.sd.gov/.