Tag: meningococcal outbreaks

How Do They Figure out Who Starts an Outbreak?

As we continue to see outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the post-vaccination era, it is important that these outbreaks be quickly contained.

But it is important to understand that these outbreaks don’t simply stop on there own. A lot of work goes into containing them.

Working to Contain an Outbreak

And that work containing outbreaks is expensive. Much more expensive than simply getting vaccinated.

For example, the total personnel time and total direct cost to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene responding to and controlling the 2013 outbreak in NYC were calculated to be at least $394,448 and 10,054 personnel hours.

Why it is so expensive is easy to see once you understand all of the work that goes into containing an outbreak. Work that is done by your local health department as soon as a case of measles, or other vaccine-preventable disease, is suspected.

Work that, for a measles outbreak for example, includes:

  • initiating a case and contact investigation
  • quickly confirming that the patient actually has measles, including testing
  • assessing the potential for further spread – identifying contacts who aren’t immune to measles and are at risk for getting measles
  • isolating people with measles and quarantining contacts who aren’t immune to measles for at least 21 days after the start of the measles rash in the last case of measles in the area, including everyone who is intentionally unvaccinated
  • offering postexposure vaccination, a dose of the MMR vaccine within 72 hours of exposure to contacts who are not fully immune so that they can get some protection maybe don’t have to be quarantined
  • having targeted immunization clinics in the affected population, such as a school or church, to get as many people vaccinated as possible, even after 72 hours, so they have can be protected in the future

That’s an awful lot of work.

Work that continues until the outbreak officially ends.

Finding the Source of an Outbreak

Another big part of the work that goes on to contain an outbreak is identifying the source of the outbreak.

Was it someone who had recently been traveling overseas, a visitor from out of the country, or someone that was already part of an another outbreak?

Why is that so important?

If you don’t find the source of the outbreak, then you can’t be sure that you have found all of the people that have been exposed, and the outbreak might go on for an extended period of time.

And no, it is never shedding, a vaccine strain, or a recently vaccinated child that causes these measles outbreaks.

Anatomy of a Measles Outbreak

A closer look at the measles outbreak in San Diego, California in 2008 can help folks understand even better what happens during one of these outbreaks.

A 7-year-old who is unvaccinated because his parents have a personal belief vaccine exemption travels to Switzerland with his family.

A week after returning home from the trip, he gets sick, but returns to school after a few days. He then develops a rash and sees his family physician, followed by his pediatrician, and then makes a trip to the emergency room because he continues to have a high fever and rash (classic measles symptoms).

He is eventually diagnosed with measles, but not before eleven other children are infected with measles. This includes two of his siblings, five children in his school, and four children who were exposed at his pediatrician’s office.

It is not as simple as that though.

During this measles outbreak:

  • Three of the children who became infected were younger than 12 months of age, and were therefore too young to have been vaccinated
  • Eight of the nine children who were at least 12 months old were intentionally unvaccinated because they also had personal belief vaccine exemptions
  • About 70 children were placed under voluntary quarantine for 21 days after their last exposure because they were exposed to one of the measles cases and either didn’t want to be vaccinated or were too young
  • One of the infants with measles traveled to Hawaii, raising fears that the measles outbreak could spread there too

All together, 839 people were exposed to the measles virus.

This family didn't have a choice about their son getting sick - he was too young to be vaccinated when he was exposed to an unvaccinated child with measles.
This family didn’t have a choice about their son getting sick – he was too young to be vaccinated when he was exposed to an unvaccinated child with measles.

At least one of them was a 10-month-old infant who got infected at his well child checkup, was too young to have gotten the MMR vaccine yet, and ended up spending three days in the hospital – time his parents spent “fearing we might lose our baby boy.”

The parents of this 10-month-old weren’t looking for a vaccine exemption and didn’t want their child to catch measles, a life-threatening, vaccine-preventable disease. Instead, they were counting on herd immunity to protect him until their child could be protected with an MMR vaccine. They were one of “those who come into contact with them” that got caught up in a decision of some other parents to not vaccinate their child.

The kids who are at risk and get a vaccine-preventable disease because they are too young to get vaccinated, have an immune system problem that prevents them from getting immunized or their vaccine from working, and the kids who simply didn’t get protected from a vaccine are the hidden costs of these measles outbreaks that we don’t hear about often enough.

What to Know About Finding the Source of an Outbreak

Without all of the hard work that goes into containing outbreaks, the outbreaks of measles, pertussis, mumps, hepatitis A, and other vaccine preventable diseases would be even bigger.

More on Finding the Source of an Outbreak

 

Understanding the Recommendations to Get a Men B Vaccine

A lot of folks, even some pediatricians, are still confused about the recommendations for the meningococcal B vaccines.

Remember, two vaccines, Bexsero and Trumenba, are approved to protect against serogroup B meningococcal disease.

The Men B Vaccine for High Risk Kids

There is no confusion about the recommendation that high risk kids should get vaccinated against meningococcal B disease.

“Certain persons aged ≥10 years who are at increased risk for meningococcal disease should receive MenB vaccine.”

ACIP on Use of Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccines in Persons Aged ≥10 Years at Increased Risk for Serogroup B Meningococcal Disease: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, 2015

Who’s high risk?

In addition to microbiologists who work with the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria, you are considered to be high risk if you are at least 10 years old and:

  • MenB vaccines are routinely given during outbreaks on college campuses.
    MenB vaccines are routinely given during outbreaks on college campuses.

    have a persistent complement component deficiency, including inherited or chronic deficiencies in C3, C5–C9, properdin, factor D, or factor H

  • have anatomic or functional asplenia, including sickle cell disease, children with congenital asplenia, and children who’s spleen was removed (splenectomy) to prevent complications of other conditions, such as ITP, hereditary spherocytosis, pyruvate kinase deficiency, Gaucher disease, and hypersplenism, etc.
  • are taking the medication eculizumab (Soliris), which is used to treat two rare blood disorders, atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS) and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH)
  • could be exposed in a serogroup B meningococcal disease outbreak

And, if high risk, you should either get a 3 dose series of Trumenba or a 2 dose series of Bexsero.

Keep in mind that traveling is not usually a risk factor for Men B, but can be for the other meningococcal vaccines.

The Men B Vaccine for Healthy Teens

But what if you aren’t at high risk?

While teens should routinely get vaccinated with other meningococcal vaccines, Menactra or Menveo, that provide protection against serogroups A, C, W, Y,  the recommendation for Men B vaccination is more permissive.

“A MenB vaccine series may be administered to adolescents and young adults aged 16–23 years to provide short-term protection against most strains of serogroup B meningococcal disease. The preferred age for MenB vaccination is 16–18 years.”

ACIP on Use of Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccines in Adolescents and Young Adults: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, 2015

When given to healthy teens who are not at high risk for meningococcal disease, both Bexsero and Trumenba can be given as a two dose series.

A Permissive Recommendation for Men B Vaccines

This permissive recommendation for Men B is what has got folks confused…

“The recommendation is labeled as “Category B,” meaning that individual clinical decision-making is recommended. A Category A recommendation means a vaccine is recommended for everyone in an age-group or risk factor group.”

ACIP endorses individual choice on meningitis B vaccine

So there is a recommendation for older teens to get vaccinated with the Men B vaccines, it just isn’t the clear cut, get the vaccine, kind of recommendation that we are used to. The recommendation instead says that you can get the vaccine if you want to be vaccinated and protected against meningococcal B disease.

And that’s where the confusion comes from, as over 75% of doctors don’t even know what a category B recommendation really means! That’s not surprising though, as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices doesn’t often make category B recommendations for vaccines.

So why did the Men B vaccines only get a permissive recommendation? After all, Bexsero is routinely given to all infants in the UK at 8 weeks, 16 weeks, and 1 year as part of their routine childhood immunization schedule.

Things that factored into the decision for a permissive recommendation seemed to include that:

  • routine vaccination of all teens would prevent about 15 to 29 cases of Men B and two to five deaths each year, as there are about 50 to 60 cases and five to 10 deaths each year in children and young adults between the ages of 11 and 23 years, and giving it only to kids going to college would only prevent about nine cases and one death each year
  • there are some concerns about how effective the MenB vaccines might be, but only because vaccine effectiveness “was inferred based on an immunologic marker of protection,” as it is difficult to otherwise test how well the vaccine works because the disease has a low prevalence and there is no data yet about how long the protection will last, as they are new vaccines. Still, from 63 to 88% of people get protective levels of antibodies after getting the MenB vaccines and the protection should last for at least two to four years.
  • data on safety was limited, but there were no “no concerning patterns of serious adverse events”
  • the vaccine likely won’t reduce the nasopharyngeal colonization by MenB bacteria, so might not contribute to herd immunity

If you are still confused, you will hopefully be reassured that a combination, pentavalent MenABCW-135Y meningococcal vaccine is in the pipeline and once available, will almost certainly be recommended for all teens, replacing the need to get separate meningococcal vaccines for protection.

Making a Decision About the MenB Vaccines

So do you get your kids the Men B vaccine series?

“Pediatricians are encouraged to discuss the availability of the MenB vaccines with families.”

AAP on Recommendations for Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccine for Persons 10 Years and Older

The one thing that is very clear is that you should make your decision after talking to your pediatrician about the risks and benefits of getting vaccinated.

Although many people think that there is no recommendation for healthy teens to get a Men B vaccine, that isn’t really true. There just isn’t a recommendation for routine vaccination of all teens.

It is true that the Men B vaccines aren’t required by most colleges, although some are starting to require them, just like they do Menactra or Menveo.

“The treating clinician should discuss the benefits, risks, and costs with patients and their families and then work with them to determine what is in their best interest.”

AAP on Recommendations for Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccine for Persons 10 Years and Older

What are the benefits? Your child doesn’t get Men B disease, a disease that is often life-threatening.

What are the risks? In addition to extremely rare risks that you can see with any vaccine, like anaphylaxis, there are the risks that the vaccine doesn’t work, as no vaccine is 100% effective, pain from the shot, or that your child is never exposed, so didn’t actually need the shot, since Men B disease is pretty rare.

“The CDC has estimated the risk of anaphylaxis is 1.3 cases/1 million doses following administration of any vaccine. Thus, the vaccine benefit from prevention of death from MenB disease is approximately equal to the risk of anaphylaxis from MenB vaccine administration.”

H. Cody Meissner, MD on MenB vaccines: a remarkable technical accomplishment but uncertain clinical role

Although thinking about it this way, the risk of anaphylaxis vs the benefit of preventing Men B deaths seems to be equal, remember that anaphylaxis is often treatable.

What are the costs? Men B vaccines are expensive, but are covered by insurance and the Vaccines for Children Program. Still, someone is always paying for them.

What other factors come into play? Some teens are getting caught up on their HPV vaccines and are getting a booster dose of the other meningococcal vaccine at around this same time. While they can certainly all be given together, some pediatricians prioritize getting kids vaccinated and protected with Gardasil and Menactra or Menveo, and so don’t focus on the Men B vaccines.

Still, the vaccine is safe and it works, so the question really may come down to – is it necessary? Or is Men B so rare, that it is worth taking a chance and skipping this vaccine.

What to Know About the Recommendations to Get a Men B Vaccine

Talk to your pediatrician and see if your child should get the Men B vaccine series.

More on Understanding the Recommendations to Get a Men B Vaccine

How to Avoid a Quarantine During an Outbreak at Your School

Believe it or not, hundreds of kids get caught up in quarantines for vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States each year.

Quarantines were routine in the pre-vaccine era.
Quarantines were routine during pre-vaccine era epidemics.

Wait, what?

Caught up in quarantines for vaccine-preventable diseases?

Then why do we have vaccines?

How to Avoid a Quarantine During an Outbreak at Your School

Is it fair that unvaccinated students need to stay home when there is an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease?
Is it fair that unvaccinated students need to stay home when there is an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease?

As you have probably already guessed, these aren’t usually vaccinated kids that are getting sick or quarantined in these outbreaks of measles, meningococcemia, and chicken pox, etc.

That’s right, they are unvaccinated.

Typically intentionally unvaccinated, although they are sometimes too young to be vaccinated or may have a medical exemption.

And that brings up to a few very easy ways to avoid getting quarantined during an outbreak:

  1. make sure you are always up-to-date on all of your vaccines
  2. if you think that you have natural immunity (already had the disease) or were vaccinated, but don’t have your immunization records, then getting a titer test might keep you out of quarantine if you can prove that you are immune
  3. get vaccinated, if possible, at the first sign of the outbreak, which might help you avoid quarantine in the case of measles and chicken pox

“Persons who continue to be exempted from or who refuse measles vaccination should be excluded from the school, child care, or other institutions until 21 days after rash onset in the last case of measles.”

Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

That’s right, especially in the case of measles, you can often avoid being quarantined if you simply get vaccinated.

Unvaccinated children exposed to measles are quarantined for at least 21 days.
Unvaccinated children exposed to measles are typically quarantined for at least 21 days.

Why are quarantines important?

Can’t you just isolate yourself if you get sick?

The problem with that strategy is that you are often contagious before you develop symptoms. That’s especially true of measles, when you likely won’t even realize that you have measles until you get the measles rash, after having a high fever for three to five days. That’s why people with measles are often seen at clinics and emergency rooms multiple times, exposing many people, before they are finally diagnosed. It is the classic signs of a rash with continued fever that helps to make the diagnosis.

Without quarantines of unvaccinated people, especially those who are known exposures to other cases, today’s outbreaks would be even bigger and harder to control.

If you don’t want to take the risk of being quarantined and missing weeks or months of school or work, then don’t take the risk of being unvaccinated. Tragically, that’s not the only risk you take when you skip or delay your vaccines. In addition to getting sick, you also risk getting others sick, including those who didn’t have a choice about getting vaccinated yet.

What to Know About Avoiding Quarantines During an Outbreak

The easiest way to avoid getting caught up in a quarantine for a vaccine-preventable disease is to simply make sure your kids are up-to-date on all of their vaccines.

More on Avoiding Quarantines During an Outbreak

 

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 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