By Carla O’Day
Students entering seventh grade in Nevada public and private schools this fall will be required to get vaccinated against meningitis, a potentially deadly illness caused by bacteria that can infect the brain and spinal cord.
The meningococcal vaccine, also known as MCV4, prevents infection of the four types of bacteria—A, C, W and Y—that cause the disease. Symptoms of meningitis include headaches, stiff neck, light sensitivity, seizures, a rash, nausea, and vomiting. Meningitis is contagious and can strike without warning, even among healthy people.
“About 40 states already require it and Nevada was on the back end of this,” said Phoenix Stafford, a Washoe County School District nurse. “Meningitis is more common in adolescents and young adults, so they should get vaccinated before they get into that age range.”
Stafford said the vaccine is good for about 5 years and a follow-up booster dose is recommended at age 16.
Additionally, all students age 23 and younger enrolled as a freshman at Nevada universities will need to provide proof they received the meningitis vaccine on or after their 16th birthday, according to Immunize Nevada.
Although there hasn’t been a recent meningitis outbreak locally, the new statewide requirement is more of a precaution, Stafford said.
Vaccines are available through doctors’ offices, medical clinics, and pharmacies.
If there’s a health reason why a child can’t be vaccinated, such as having severe life-threatening allergies, he or she will be required to provide a medical exemption from a healthcare professional.
For more information or for a list of vaccine requirements, visit www.immunizenevada.org.
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Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.