By Lora Hines, The Press-Enterprise
22 January 2011
The federal public health agency that investigates, diagnoses and prevents disease spread could change its childhood immunization schedule and adopt a recommendation this week for teenagers to get vaccine boosters for the bacteria that causes meningitis.
The anticipated change by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes as at least nine people, including a former Eastvale Roosevelt athlete, have died or become ill from meningitis-related illnesses since April. Most of those people were affected by an outbreak of meningococcal infections, primarily at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
On Jan. 6, Janelle Moorehead suddenly died of meningococcemia, a severe bacterial infection in the bloodstream, her doctor said. Meningococcal bacteria also cause meningitis, a disease that inflames membranes around the brain and spine.
Moorehead, 18, of Mira Loma, was a freshman softball player at Monmouth University in New Jersey. No one else in Moorehead’s family or circle of friends and former teammates have become ill. Public health officials say her death was an isolated case.
Janelle Moorehead’s father, Raymond Moorehead, said he and his wife were told that their daughter had been fully vaccinated for meningococcal infection in 2007 and was believed to have been immune.
Vaccines that fight the bacteria have been available since the 1970s, but they don’t prevent all cases of the disease. The meningococcal vaccine routinely is recommended for all young people between 11 and 18 years old. Sometimes second doses are advised for people considered at high risk of infection, including college freshmen and people who have been exposed to a meningitis outbreak.
In November, the CDC committee that examines immunization practices voted to recommend a booster vaccine at age 16 for children who get their first dose when they are 11 and 12 years old, said CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund. The CDC could accept the recommendation as soon as Thursday, she said.
“There are data that show the vaccine wears off for some people more quickly than the 10 years we had anticipated,” Nordlund said.