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Meningococcal disease is rare, affecting about 1,000-2,000 American kids each year, according to the CDC. It causes flu-like symptoms that can turn deadly within just 24 hours. But it is also deadly: An average of about 15 babies and 12 adolescents die from it each year. The disease is merciless; once bacteria enter the bloodstream, they can cause organs to fail and lead to an infection of the fluid around the brain or spinal cord. (Szavbo, 8-9-2011)

Though the prevalence has been reduced due to vaccines, the fatality rate for bacterial meningitis remains high at around 15% in a nationwide sampling, meaning 1 in every 6 or 7 patients who get it will die. (Seppa, 6-18-2011)

How meningococcal meningitis is spread
It typically spreads from close contact, and tweens and teens arc most likely to get the disease when sharing close quarters, such as sitting together in a classroom or spending time at a sleepover. It can also be spread by saliva, so kissing or sharing a drink can expose your child.

The meningococcal vaccine

The CDC recommends all ids ages 11 to 18 get a one-time vaccination against meningococcal meningitis, but less than half do.

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