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Public health district offers free meningitis vaccine

The Southeastern Utah Health District has a limited amount of meningococcal vaccine available free of charge to Castle Valley residents.

"We will have free vaccine through May 9," indicated Dottie Flemett, nursing director at the public health department. "After that, it will still be available at a cost."

The nursing director played a key role in obtaining the free vaccine through a special project grant.

Meningococcal meningitis is a serious illness caused by bacteria. It is often misdiagnosed because its early signs are similar to the flu or migraines.

Symptoms may include high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, nausea, vomiting and exhaustion.

The disease is spread through air droplets and direct contact with an infected individual, pointed out the public health department.

Direct contact includes being present when the infected individual coughs as well as kissing and sharing cups, lip balm, cigarettes, utensils or anything a person with the disease touches with his or her mouth.

College students are at special risk for becoming infected with the meningococcal meningitis, stated Flemett.

Freshmen living in dormitories are up to six times more likely to get the disease than other people.

"The disease can be treated, but still about one out of every 10 people who get the disease dies from it, and many are affected for life," added Flemett.

The vaccine is recommended for individuals ages 11 through 55 years old.

In addition to college freshmen, missionaries and military recruits should also consider getting the vaccine.

Parents and students should learn more about meningococcal meningitis and consider getting immunized, added Flemett.

For additional information, Carbon County residents may contact the public health department in Price at 637-3671.

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