Minnesota child illnesses worry CDC officialsFive Minnesota children have grown sick — and one of them died — from a germ that can cause meningitis, causing U.S. health officials to warn of the importance of a common childhood vaccine.
ATLANTA — Five Minnesota children have grown sick — and one of them died — from a germ that can cause meningitis, causing U.S. health officials to warn of the importance of a common childhood vaccine.
The Hib vaccine, which is given to babies, has succeeded in reducing U.S. cases of the bacterial illness to only about 20 a year in children younger than 5. But a cluster of five cases occurred in central Minnesota and the Twin Cities area last year in children from 5 months to 3 years old. One child, who was 7 months old, died of meningitis in November.
It was the highest number of Hib cases in the state in 16 years.
No other states have reported such an increase. But Minnesota’s disease surveillance is unusually good, so problems in other states could be developing, said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Three of the five children — including the dead child — had not received any vaccine, due to a decision by their parents. But a shortage of Hib vaccine may also have contributed, CDC officials said.
Minnesota state epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said the vaccine shortage has resulted in fewer babies getting fully immunized against the bacteria. State health officials are working with the CDC and vaccine makers to get enough doses to catch up all the state’s children. They’re urging parents to have their children vaccinated.
Haemophilus influenzae Serotype b (Hib) can cause meningitis, pneumonia and other dangers. Because of a Hib vaccine shortage that started in 2007, CDC officials said doctors should defer for most children a booster dose given at 12 to 15 months. But they said there’s enough for children to get necessary doses at ages 2, 4 and 6 months.
Lynfield said disease investigators could find nothing connecting the five Minnesota cases. The state is one of the nation’s top for child immunizations, although parents who object can opt out of the requirements.
On the Net: CDC information on Hib: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/haeminfluserob—t.htm