Tag: meningococcal disease

Why Didn’t Everyone Die with Our 1980s Level of Vaccination Rates?

This is actually a real question that someone recently asked:

“Can someone please explain how we survived the 1980s with vaccination rates well below “herd immunity” thresholds and far fewer vaccines? Why didn’t everyone die?”

J.B. Handley

Mr. Handley even provides a nice chart to give his question some context.

Vaccination rates for 2 year old children in 1985.
The chart shows vaccination rates for 2 year old children in 1985.

So why didn’t everyone die?

That’s easy.

While vaccine-preventable diseases can be life-threatening, they certainly don’t kill everyone who gets them. They are not 100% fatal. Well, rabies usually is, but not surprisingly, rabies wasn’t on his little chart…

Deaths from Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, 1985

What else does Mr. Handley miss?

“Comparisons between rates obtained from immunization records versus the total sample (records and recall) conducted on data collected between 1979 and 1983 showed that the USIS, which accepted parental recall, underestimated the true vaccination rate in preschoolers by as much as 23% for some antigens.”

Simpson et al on Forty years and four surveys: How does our measuring measure up?

The vaccination rates he is citing were based on a phone survey that wasn’t thought to be very accurate, underestimating true vaccination rates. It was last used in 1985.

While vaccination rates weren’t great at the time, they just weren’t as horrible as he makes it seem, but we still had some deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases. Not as bad as the pre-vaccine era though, when hundreds of people died with measles each year.

Here’s the data from the CDC for 1985:

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/E/reported-cases.pdf

  • 23 deaths from tetanus
  • 4 deaths from pertussis
  • 4 deaths from measles
  • 1 death from rubella
  • 2 cases of congenital rubella syndrome

Unfortunately, it got worse. This was just before the large measles outbreaks from 1989 to 1991, when 123 people died. During those three years, there were also 28 deaths from pertussis, 6 deaths from mumps, 13 deaths from rubella and 77 cases of congenital rubella syndrome!

But then we learned our lesson and we got kids vaccinated. But most of the problems then were about access to vaccines, not parents who intentionally skipped or delayed vaccines for their kids.

Deaths from non-Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, 1985

The CDC Morbidity and Motality Weekly Report includes summaries of notifiable diseases in the United States.Many of the diseases on J.B. Handley’s chart weren’t yet vaccine-preventable in 1985. They were quite deadly though, which is why vaccines were being developed and were eventually added to the schedule to protect our kids from getting them.

But in 1985 (*or in the years before the vaccine was introduced), tragically, the CDC lists:

  • 80 deaths from hepatitis A
  • 490 deaths from hepatitis B
  • 68 deaths from chicken pox
  • 219 deaths from Hib meningitis in children and about another 45 deaths from Hib epiglotittis
  • at least 200 deaths from pneumococcal disease in children*
  • 257 deaths from meningococcal infections
  • 20 to 60 deaths each year from rotavirus infections*

Want us to Turn Back the Clock and go back to an immunization plan (the Jenny McCarthy schedule) that didn’t include vaccines against any of these diseases? We would end up back to when kids still died of meningitis, pneumonia, blood infections, severe dehydration, epiglottitis, and cancer from Hib, pneumococcal disease, rotavirus, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, chicken pox, HPV, and meningococcal disease.

And the answer to Mr. Handley’s question becomes even more obvious.

How did we survive the 1980s with vaccination rates well below “herd immunity” thresholds and far fewer vaccines?

Many people didn’t.

What to Know About Deaths and Vaccination Rates

Poor vaccination rates and fewer vaccines led to more deaths from now vaccine preventable diseases in the mid-1980s.

More on Deaths and Vaccination Rates

 

Meningitis Vaccines

Meningitis is classically defined as an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.

Infections that can cause meningitis include:

  • viruses – also called aseptic meningitis, it can be caused by enteroviruses, measles, mumps, and herpes, etc.
  • bacteria – Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitidis, Listeria monocytogenes, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), Group B strep
  • a fungus – Cryptococcus, Histoplasma
  • parasites – uncommon
  • amebas – Naegleria fowleri

There are even non-infectious causes of meningitis, including the side-effects of medications and certain systemic illnesses.

Meningitis Vaccines

Teens and young adults need two different kinds of meningococcal vaccines to get full protection.
Teens and young adults need two different kinds of meningococcal vaccines to get full protection.

Fortunately, many of these diseases that cause meningitis are vaccine-preventable.

You don’t often think about them in this way, but all of the following vaccines are available to prevent meningitis, including:

  • Hib – the Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria was a common cause of meningitis in the pre-vaccine era, in addition to causing epiglottitis and pneumonia
  • Prevnar – you mean it’s not just an ear infection vaccine?
  • MMR – both measles and mumps can cause meningitis
  • Menactra and Menveo – serogroup A, C, W, Y meningococcal vaccines
  • Bexsero and Trumenba – serogroup B meningococcal vaccines

But just because your child has been vaccinated doesn’t mean that you are in the clear if they are exposed to someone with meningitis. They might still need preventative antibiotics if they are exposed to someone with Hib or meningococcal meningitis.

Still, getting fully vaccinated on time is the best way to prevent many of these types of meningitis and other life-threatening diseases.

What to Know About Meningitis Vaccines

Learn which vaccines are available to provide protection against bacterial and viral meningitis.

More on Meningitis Vaccines

What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Meningitis

Meningitis is classically defined as an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, and it can be caused by:

  • viruses – also called aseptic meningitis, it can be caused by enteroviruses, measles, mumps, and herpes, etc.
  • bacteria – Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitidis, Listeria monocytogenes, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), Group B strep
  • a fungus – Cryptococcus, Histoplasma
  • parasites – uncommon
  • amebas – Naegleria fowleri

Surprisingly, there are even non-infectious causes of meningitis. These might be include side-effects of a medication or that the child’s meningitis is a part of another systemic illness.

What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Meningitis

While meningitis can be contagious, it greatly depends on the type of meningitis to which they are exposed as to whether or not your child is at any risk.

Teens and young adults need two different kinds of meningococcal vaccines to get full protection.
Teens and young adults need two different kinds of meningococcal vaccines to get full protection.

So while the general advice is to “tell your doctor if you think you have been exposed to someone with meningitis,” you should try and gather as much information as you can about the exposure.

This information will hopefully include the type of meningitis they were exposed to, specifically if it was bacterial or viral, the exact organism if it has been identified, and how close of an exposure it was – were they simply in the same school or actually sitting next to each other in the same room.

For example, while the CDC states that “people who are close contacts of a person with meningococcal or Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) meningitis are at increased risk of getting infected and may need preventive antibiotics,” they also state that “close contacts of a person with meningitis caused by other bacteria, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, do not need antibiotics.”

And you often don’t need to take any preventive measures if you are exposed to someone with viral meningitis.

While that might sound scary, it is basically because you typically aren’t at big risk after this kind of exposure. You could get the same virus, but the chances that it would spread and also cause meningitis are very unlikely.

Not only does Viera Scheibner think that vaccines cause SIDS and shaken baby syndrome, she thinks they are contaminated with amoeba.
The Naegleria fowleri ameba that can cause meningitis can be found in warm freshwater, including lakes and rivers.

Other types of meningitis, like primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) and fungal and parasitic meningitis aren’t even contagious.

The Histoplasma fungus spreads from bird or bat droppings, for example, not from one person to another.

And parasites typically spread from ingesting raw or undercooked food, or in the case of Baylisascaris procyonis, from ingesting something contaminated with infectious parasite eggs in raccoon feces.

What to Do If Your Unvaccinated Child Is Exposed to Meningitis

Vaccines can prevent a number of different types of meningitis.

From Hib and Prevnar to MMR and the meningococcal vaccines, our children routinely get several vaccines to prevent meningitis.

While these meningitis vaccines don’t protect us from all of the different types of viruses, bacteria, and other organisms that can cause meningitis, they do prevent many of the most common.

So what do you do if your unvaccinated child is exposed to meningitis?

You should immediately call your pediatrician or local healthy department, because they might need:

  • antibiotics (usually rifampin, ciprofloxacin, or ceftriaxone) if the meningitis was caused by Neisseria meningitidis
  • antibiotics (rifampin) if the meningitis was caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

The availability of these antibiotics isn’t a good reason to skip or delay getting vaccinated though, as you won’t always know when your kids have been exposed to meningitis and not all types of vaccine-preventable meningitis can be prevented with antibiotics.

Of course, getting fully vaccinated on time is the best way to prevent many of these types of meningitis and other life-threatening diseases.

What to Do If Your Vaccinated Child Is Exposed to Meningitis

Even if your child is vaccinated, they might still need preventative antibiotics if they are exposed to someone with Hib or meningococcal meningitis, as vaccines are not 100% effective.

“Regardless of immunization status, close contacts of all people with invasive meningococcal disease , whether endemic or in an outbreak situation, are at high risk of infection and should receive chemoprophylaxis.”

AAP Red Book on Meningococcal Infections

This is especially true if they are not fully vaccinated.

Remember, to be fully vaccinated against Haemophilus influenzae type b, kids get a 2 or 3 dose primary series of the Hib vaccine when they are infants and a booster dose once they are 12 months old.

In the case of exposure to Hib meningitis, antibiotic prophylaxis would be recommended if:

  • the child is fully vaccinated, but there is a young child, under age 4 years, in the house who is unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated
  • the child is fully vaccinated, but there is another child in the house who is immunocompromised
  • the child is only partially vaccinated and under age 4 years
  • there is an outbreak in a preschool or daycare, with 2 or more cases within 60 days

And anyone exposed to someone with meningococcal meningitis should likely get antibiotics (chemoprophylaxis), even if they are fully vaccinated.

Talk to your pediatrician or local health department if your child is exposed to meningitis and you aren’t sure what to do, whether or not your child has been vaccinated.

What to Know About Getting Exposed to Meningitis

Learn what to do if your child is exposed to someone with meningitis, especially if they are unvaccinated, or have been exposed to someone with Hib meningitis or meningococcal disease.

More on Getting Exposed to Meningitis

Meningococcal Disease Outbreaks

Meningitis B vaccination poster during an outbreak at Princeton.There are two types of meningococcal vaccines that can help prevent meningococcal disease, including:

  • Menactra and Menveo – meningococcal conjugate vaccines that protect against serogroups A, C, W, Y
  • Bexsero and Trumenba – meningococcal conjugate vaccines that only  protect against serogroup B

And while children routinely get their first dose of either Menactra or Menveo when they are 11 to 12 years old and a booster at age 16 years, the MenB vaccines only have a “permissive” recommendation.

That means that there isn’t a formal recommendation that all kids get Bexsero or Trumenba. Instead, older teens and young adults between the ages of 16 and 23 years can get vaccinated if they want to protect themselves from most strains of serogroup B meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal Disease Outbreaks

Although the CDC reports that the incidence of menB disease is low, there have been at least ten outbreaks of menB disease on college campuses since 2013, including:

  • University of California, Santa Barbara four cases – one student had both his feet amputated (2013)
  • Princeton University – nine cases  and one death – a student at Drexel University (2013-14)
  • Providence College – two cases (2015)
  • University of Oregon – seven cases and one death (2016)
  • Santa Clara University – three cases (2016)
  • Rutgers University- New Brunswick – two cases (2016)
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison – three cases (2016)
  • Oregon State University – six cases (2017)
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst – two cases (2017)

The latest outbreak is at Colgate University. One students has been diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis disease and the school “will be offering vaccination clinics for all students who have not already received two doses of the serogroup B immunization.”

What to Know About Meningococcal Disease Outbreaks

Meningococcal disease is not common, but the effects of this vaccine-preventable disease disease can be devastating, which is why experts work to quickly get outbreaks under control.

More on Meningococcal Disease Outbreaks

Updated on April 7, 2018

Meningococcal Vaccines

There are several different types of meningococcal vaccines, including:

  • Menactra and Menveo – meningococcal conjugate vaccines that protect against serogroups A, C, W, Y
  • Bexsero and Trumenba – meningococcal conjugate vaccines that only  protect against serogroup B
  • Menomune – an older meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine that protects against serogroups A, C, W, Y (discontinued in 2017)
  • MenHibrix – meningococcal conjugate vaccine that only  protect against C, Y and Hib (discontinued in 2016)

Children routinely get their first dose of either Menactra or Menveo when they are 11 to 12 years old and a booster at age 16 years.

In addition, “Young adults aged 16 through 23 years (preferred age range is 16 through 18 years) may be vaccinated with either a 2-dose series of Bexsero or a 3-dose series of Trumenba vaccine to provide short-term protection against most strains of serogroup B meningococcal disease. ”

For more information:

Updated February 7, 2018