Protecting your family from meningitis -

Protect your family from meningitis

Meningitis - a once rare but deadly disease - is on the rise. The symptoms aren't that different from a typical fever with some nausea. Here's what you need to know to protect your family.

"This one just hits you so hard and so fast, and within a matter of hours a life could be lost," said Amy Necaise. Her 19-year-old son died with meningitis, teaching her just how quickly some forms of the disease can kill. That is why she says a vaccine against it can be so important.

Meningitis is rare, but it is much more common in young people, particularly those who live in close quarters like college dorms. So more colleges are now requiring the vaccine.

"It's a very contagious disease," explained nurse practitioner Tonya McKenzie. "It passes from person to person by direct contact or through droplets like coughing."

Nationwide, more cases are being reported in even younger children from high school down to middle and elementary school.

McKenzie said death is not the only concern.

"It can also cause disabilities and deformities," she said. "People can lose a limb. It can affect their heart, their brain, and the spinal cord."

So some states are now requiring the vaccine for younger students. In other areas, it is a recommendation for children starting at age 11.

"There's no words to describe what it's like to lose a child, but to lose a child to something like this that might have been prevented by a vaccine..." Necaise said.

Meningitis vaccines can cost around $200, so parents may want to check to see if health insurance will cover the cost.

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

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