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Alert: Meningitis outbreak kills baby in Minnesota, sickens five

Posted Jan 23 2009 4:32pm


The Centers for Disease Control issued an alert today for an outbreak of bacterial meningitis caused by HIB (Haemophilus Influenzae B) that killed a baby and hospitalized four other children in Minnesota.

HIB is a bacteria that attacks infants and young children more than older kids and adults. Because the infection can be fatal, HIB vaccine was developed and used for almost 20 years now as part of the routine immunization schedule.

Because of a vaccine supply shortage, HIB vaccine has been given preferentially to infants and a booster dose for toddlers has been deferred until the vaccine supply increases (anticipated to be in June 2009).

Minnesota is reporting an outbreak of five cases of HIB--one child, whose parents chose not to vaccinate, has died. Of the five cases, three of the children were not immunized due to parental concern about vaccines and the desire to delay or space out vaccinations. Minnesota hasn't seen this many cases of HIB since 1991.

The current recommendation is that babies complete a primary series of vaccinations for HIB. That means babies should get a dose of HIB vaccine at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. Even though the vaccine supply is limited, protection should be adequate to cover the most vulnerable.

The take-home message: for those parents who think they can skip vaccinations and hope their community will protect their child against serious infection, think again. Please remember these diseases are very real.

For those of you with kids under a year of age, make sure your baby gets his first three doses of HIB vaccine. For parents of kids with toddlers, watch for updates this summer when the HIB booster should be available.

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