Vaccine for rare disease approved

A new vaccine for a rare and sometimes fatal disease has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.  The vaccine will help prevent meningitis is children as young as nine months old.

Meningitis is the swelling of the tissues around the brain and spinal cord.  Although meningitis cases are rare with just 1,000-2,500 cases each year, the disease can turn deadly quickly.  According to the FDA website, even with appropriate antibiotics and intensive care, between 10 percent and 15 percent of people who develop the disease die from the infection. Another 10 percent to 20 percent suffer complications such as brain damage or loss of limb or hearing.  Young children are more susceptible to the the disease.

This two dose vaccine, made by Menactra, produces antibodies against the infections that cause meningitis.  The vaccine has already been approved for children and adults age 2 to 55, this new approval allows babies to get the vaccine as well.

“The highest rate of meningococcal disease (meningitis) occurs in children under one year of age. With this approval, Menactra can now be used in children as young as 9 months of age to help prevent this potentially life-threatening disease,” said Karen Midthun, M.D., director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in a news release.

The vaccine was tested successfully in four clinical studies with 3,700 patients.

About meningitis
It’s easy to mistake the early signs of this rare disease.  The symptoms are similar to the flu, with patients complaining of vomiting, headache, and fever.  The disease is also known to cause a stiff neck.  The only way to confirm the symptoms of meningitis is to see a doctor immediately.  If treatment is delayed, the infection can quickly lead to brain damage or death.  There are intravenous antibiotics that can treat meningitis.