Local health officials talk benefits of meningococcal vaccine

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - As school is out for the summer, parents should make sure their children have the correct vaccinations before returning in the fall.

One of those vaccinations is for meningococcal disease.

It's a rare bacterial infection that can be spread in large, crowded spaces such as dormitories or army barracks.

It's spread by coughing or sneezing directly into another person's face.

1 in 10 people have the organism in their throat at one time, but medical professionals are not sure what triggers it.

Symptoms include headache, high fever, a stiff neck, trouble looking at bright lights along with confusion and fatigue.

If untreated, it can lead to amputation of limbs and the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body.

Broome County Communicable Disease Nurse Marianne Yourden says someone can die from it in a matter of hours.

"It works fast. You can have a healthy teenager go to school in the morning and be gone that night. It's something to take very seriously," said Yourden.

A new law is requiring that children receive the vaccination in 7th, 8th and 12th grades.

If a student does not receive it, he or she cannot go to school in the fall.

Public Health and Immunization Nurse Marian Hollander says parents should vaccinate their kids.

"So many things that are medical we do not have control over. It may happen, it may not happen. We have incredible technology where we have vaccinations that can protect children from a potentially devastating disease," said Hollander.

People can make an appointment with their primary care doctor to receive the vaccination.

Those without insurance can receive one from the health department.

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