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Health and medicine

Officials: Some kids need new meningitis vaccine

Associated Press
Published May 27, 2005


CHICAGO - Children who are 11 to 12, students entering high school and college freshmen headed for dorm life should receive a new meningitis vaccine, federal health officials and the American Academy of Pediatrics said Thursday.

Meningococcal meningitis affects only about 3,000 people nationwide each year, but kills one-fifth of adolescents who get it.

"This is a very bad disease," said Dr. Carol J. Baker, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine. "It's very rapidly progressive in adolescence. You can have an adolescent in a shopping mall at 2 in the afternoon, in the emergency room at 6 in the evening, and death by midnight."

Meningococcal meningitis doesn't always include classic meningitis symptoms - headache and stiff neck. It can start like the flu and progress to organ failure and tissue damage.

The new vaccine was approved in January, and in February a government advisory panel urged health officials to recommend the shot be given to certain age groups - primarily those at highest risk.

The recommendations are aimed at doctors who will be giving the shots, plus parents and the more than 8-million U.S. youngsters urged to get it: 11- to 12-year-olds at routine doctor checkups; 15-year-olds or those entering high school, because they're exposed to more germs; and college dorm-dwellers, because close quarters spread disease easily.

Only a single shot is necessary - youngsters who are vaccinated at any of those ages don't need a second one - and it is expected to protect against the disease for as long as 10 years.

Study: Chemical may damage infants' genitals

NEW YORK - A manmade ingredient of many plastics, cosmetics and other consumer products may be interfering with prenatal male sexual development, new research suggests.

A study of 85 infant boys found a correlation between increased exposure to some forms of the chemical phthalate and smaller penis size and incomplete testicular descent.

It is the first time phthalate has been shown to influence the sexual development of human males.

A paper describing the research will appear in a future issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Previous experiments in rats indicate that the chemical interferes with testosterone during gestation.

The human study raises concerns because the infants did not experience levels even close to the high doses used in rat experiments. The boys' exposures were no higher than those found among the general population.

[Last modified May 27, 2005, 00:41:05]


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