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Immunizations ordered to prevent meningitis-related outbreak

ALLIANCE, Ohio (CNN) -- Health officials Tuesday ordered a mass immunization program for thousands of people against a bacterial infection that can cause meningitis after two teens died of the infection.

Last weekend more than 37,000 residents flocked to two hospitals to get preventative antibiotics. Distribution stopped Monday morning when health officials said the exposure period had expired.

The prophylactic antibiotics were given after two youths -- a 15-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl -- died over Memorial Day weekend of Neisseria meningitides group c, a strain of bacteria that can cause meningitis. The boy died of meningitis; the girl died of meningococcemia, an infection of the blood that is more dangerous than meningitis. The two students attended the same high school.


A third teen-ager -- an 18-year-old girl who attends a different school -- remains at Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron.

Her sera were being tested at Centers for Disease Control labs in Atlanta, Georgia, to determine whether she had been infected with the same bacteria. Test results were expected back Wednesday or Thursday.

The bacterial infection can cause flu-like symptoms, including a fever, headache, muscle aches, a stiff neck and sometimes nausea.

The vaccine is effective against four of the five strains of the bacteria, said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the CDC. The only strain against which it does not confer protection is strain b, which accounts for about 1,000 of the 3,000 cases that occur each year in the United States.

Meningococcal disease has a mortality rate of 10 percent to 15 percent, he said.

• CDC - Meningococcal Disease - General Information
• Meningitis Research Foundation
• Meningitis Foundation of America

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