DES MOINES, Iowa — Starting next school year, the Department of Public Health is requiring more mandatory vaccinations for Iowa students.
After getting approval from the Legislature in 2016, the health department is ramping up its fight against meningitis, a deadly disease that targets teens and young adults.
The effects are so common that many people who contract meningitis don’t even know they have it.
“Earlier it can be something as simple as you just don’t very feel good, you have a headache or maybe you’re just starting to get a fever or aches and pains,” says Dr. Patricia Quinlisk of the Iowa Department of Public Health.
If ignored, the outcomes can be deadly.
“Even with good medical care, 5-10% will die and a huge proportion of those that manage to survive will have long-term repercussions. Like, losing a limb or having brain damage,” says. Dr. Quinlisk.
To prevent this from happening to more kids, the Iowa Department of Public Health along with schools across the state, starting next school year, will now require students entering 7th grade and 12th grade to get a Meningitis shot before attending any classes.
The previous law required only students entering college to get the Meningitis shot, but officials across the state say that if we want to eliminate it, we need to start earlier.
“When we are vaccinating our students early we have a better rate of community staying healthy. Our adolescents, our families, our friends staying healthy,” said Nola Aigner of the Polk Co. Health Department.
Teens are at such a high risks because they spend so much time in close quarters together. Meningitis is most commonly spread by kissing or touching, and any health official will tell you trying to get teens to stop touching is a win-less battle. Instead, the game plan needs to be getting them vaccinated because the medicine is so effective.
“One dose it would probably be around 85-90%. Getting that second dose will get you into the 90,” says Dr. Quinlisk.