My son’s sleepaway camp is recommending that all campers get meningitis shots. Is this really necessary?
Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the brain that could lead to serious complications, including permanent brain damage and even death. Each year, there are about 2,600 cases of this very contagious disease in the U.S., mostly in adolescents and infants. The camp is probably suggesting the vaccine because closed environments -- like college dormitories or camp cabins -- mean there’s a risk of a severe breakout.
There are two major vaccines available for prevention, and while they won’t stop 100 percent of cases, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the known side effects, which can include headache, diarrhea and muscle pain. Experts recommend that all children receive the shot routinely starting at age 11. If your child has not previously been immunized against meningitis and he’s leaving for overnight camp, boarding school, college or another group living situation, I would recommend vaccinating against meningitis.
Talk it over with your pediatrician and decide what is right for you.
Dr. Mark Diamond is a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.