RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Today, in your health, we have some new ways of dealing with illnesses that affect the brain. In a moment, we'll hear about new technology aimed at making it easier to care for people with dementia. First, let's hear about new recommendations for a vaccine against a worrisome form of meningitis. Here's NPR's Patti Neighmond.
PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: Bacterial meningitis is extremely rare but potentially deadly. Vanderbilt University's infectious disease specialist, Dr. William Schaffner, says it starts out in a fairly innocuous way.
WILLIAM SCHAFFNER: It can start in a flu-like fashion, which is very deceptive, but then progress rapidly so that the persons develops this meningitis, inflammation of the covering of the brain, can become comatose or nearly so very, very quickly.
NEIGHMOND: People can become brain damaged or develop life-threatening blood infections.
SCHAFFNER: And even with our best treatment, the fatality rates are 10 to 12 to 15 percent.
NEIGHMOND: The bacteria spreads in saliva and mucus during close contact, like kissing or coughing or even sharing a water bottle. College students who live in dorms and frequent crowded areas are at particular risk. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends routine vaccination against four of the five major strains of meningitis, starting at age 12, with a booster at about 16. But now there's a new vaccine which covers a particularly worrisome strain.
SCHAFFNER: Group B meningitis is the most common form, and that's the form that has occurred on college campuses that we've heard so much about in the last couple of years.
NEIGHMOND: Up until now, the vaccine was only recommended for people at high risk, like lab workers and students on college campuses that have an outbreak. The new recommendation stops short of suggesting all adolescents get vaccinated. Instead, it says patients or their parents should talk with their doctor to decide. But the recommendation does pave the way for private and public insurers to cover the cost. Patti Neighmond, NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.