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UTMC prepares for increased meningococcal vaccine requests

Dr. Deepa Mukundan is expecting to see an uptick in requests for the meningococcal vaccine because of a new law in Ohio that requires the shot for schoolchildren.

The requirement won’t go into effect until the 2016-17 school year, but The University of Toledo Rocket Pediatrics pediatrician who specializes in infectious diseases recommends not waiting until then because meningitis is a deadly disease that parents need to take seriously.

Dr. Deepa Mukundan

Dr. Deepa Mukundan

“By the time the patient is diagnosed, it is usually too late,” Mukundan said. “If the patient does recover, the lasting effects are devastating. The patient could have brain damage, hearing loss or limb loss.”

Gov. John Kasich signed the bill into law in July. Parents who object to vaccines can opt out.

“I don’t recommend opting out because early diagnosis is nearly impossible with this disease,” Mukundan said. “While bacterial meningitis, the most serious form, can affect young children, it mostly festers in college dormitories as students share drinks, food and affection. You can hardly imagine the angst of a family who loses a kid who just moved away to college.”

Mukundan said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccination to all students at ages 11 or 12, with a booster at 16. The Ohio Department of Health is likely to follow the same guidelines in response to the new law.

Ohio Sen. Cliff Hite sponsored the bill after losing his niece to bacterial meningitis, and Mukundan worked with him to advocate for the bill’s passage.

“Meningitis can quickly strike young victims and result in multiple amputations or death within hours,” Hite said. “Sadly, my family learned that the best treatment for meningitis is often prevention.”

Mukundan explained bacterial meningitis leads to the inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. It’s difficult to diagnose and sometimes patients don’t even seek treatment because the symptoms of headache, fever and nausea mimic the common cold and flu.

About 74 percent of children nationwide have received at least one dose of the meningococcal vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Ohio, the vaccination rates will likely be much lower because only 69 percent of children are completely immunized by age 3. Mukundan said this percentage needs to be higher.

“The benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks and most people do understand it if they are properly educated about this life-saving preventative measure,” she said.

Media Coverage
FOX Toledo, NBC 24 and WTOL 11 (Sept. 1, 2015)
13 ABC (Sept. 2, 2015)


is UT’s Communications Specialist. Contact her at 419.383.5376 or
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