Meningococcal & Shingles Vaccines

Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal meningitis is a rare but serious bacterial infection. It causes the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed. Meningococcal disease includes meningitis and septicemia (i.e., a blood infection). It takes close or lengthy contact (i.e., coughing or kissing) to spread these bacteria. The number of people who get meningococcal disease in the U.S. is now relatively low – about 1,000 – thanks to the vaccines that are available.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children should be vaccinated with the meningococcal conjugate vaccine when they are 11 or 12 years old – and they should get a booster shot when they turn 16 years old. Meanwhile, patients who are 16 to 23 years old should be vaccinated with a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine.

Meningococcal vaccines are also recommended for people who are at increased risk for meningococcal disease, which includes those who…

– Live in close contact with other people (e.g., college dorms)

– Have certain medical conditions (e.g., HIV)

– Travel to a region that is in sub-Saharan Africa that is known as the “Meningitis Belt,” which stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the East

Patients should talk to their physician if they have questions about meningococcal vaccines, which include…

– Meningococcal conjugate vaccines (Menactra® and Menveo®)

– Serogroup B meningococcal vaccines (Bexsero® and Trumenba®)

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Shingles is a painful rash that is caused by the same virus (varicella zoster virus) that causes chickenpox. It usually develops on one side of the body – often on the face or torso. It consists of blisters that typically scab over in seven to 10 days, and it clears up in two to four weeks. Some people describe the pain as an intense burning sensation. For some people, the pain can last for months or longer after the rash goes away. This long-lasting pain is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), and it is the most common shingles complication. A patient’s risk of getting shingles and PHN increases as they get older.

Anyone who has had chickenpox may develop shingles, including children. A patient’s risk of shingles increases with age. About half of all shingles cases occur in adults who are 60 or older.

Shingles can include the following symptoms…

– Burning, tingling, or numbness of the skin

– Feeling sick, including chills, fever, upset stomach and headaches

– Fluid-filled blisters

– Skin that is sensitive to the touch

– Mild itching to strong pain

The CDC recommends that patients who are 50 or older get the new shingles vaccine, which is called Shingrix. It provides strong protection from shingles and long-term nerve pain. A patient should get Shingrix even if they have already had shingles because they can get the disease more than once. A patient needs to get two doses of Shingrix – the second one two to six months after the first.

The CDC also recommends that patients who got the Zostavax vaccine still get two doses of Shingrix. Zostavax is a shingles vaccine that is used in certain cases (e.g., the patient is allergic to Shingrix) when the patient is healthy and 60 or older.

Patients should talk to their physician if they have questions about shingles or the shingles vaccines.

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