Extended vaccination recommendation against meningococci

Vaccination recommendation from the Berlin Vaccination Advisory Council extended due to meningococcal deaths

The Berlin Vaccination Advisory Council has expanded the public vaccination recommendation for the state of Berlin in view of the increasing number of meningococcal diseases. According to this, especially men who have sexual intercourse with men should be vaccinated against the bacteria. Meningococci can cause dangerous infectious diseases that have claimed three lives in Berlin this year. Meningococcal infections are also becoming increasingly common in New York and Paris. The new regulation of the Berlin Vaccination Advisory Board is expected to enter into force on July 27, 2013.

Vaccination against meningococcal makes sense for all men who have sexual intercourse with men. Men who have sex with men (MSM) are particularly affected. This year, 18 people have already been infected with the pathogens, seven of which have identified the particularly dangerous subgroup C. Of these, three patients died and one became seriously ill. According to the Berlin Senate Administration, these four victims belong to the MSM group. There have been further outbreaks of disease among men in New York and Paris.

In order to prevent a further outbreak of meningococcal diseases, men who belong to the group of the MSM should now be vaccinated. The Robert Koch Institute's (RKI) permanent vaccination committee (STIKO) has so far recommended all children up to the age of 18 to have a single vaccination against group C meningococcal disease get vaccinated against the pathogen in certain countries. So far, there is no special vaccination recommendation for men from STIKO. Due to the increasing spread of meningococcal diseases, the State of Berlin made a recommendation for vaccination for MSM last Wednesday. The vaccine used for this is said to contain a component against group C meningococci. Such a vaccination is generally very well tolerated, reports the Berlin Senate Administration.

The vaccination recommendation is to be valid until January 31, 2014 and its effectiveness will then be checked. The state of Berlin also advocates the creation of a nationwide regulation for vaccination protection for MSM by STIKO.

Meningococci can cause serious infections. Meningococci are bacteria that colonize the nasopharynx of humans. The pathogens are transmitted by droplet infection, for example by coughing, sneezing or kissing. With the help of small processes, the bacteria are able to attach to the mucous membranes of the nasopharynx for weeks or months. Especially when the immune system is weakened, the meningococci multiply and penetrate the mucous membranes. The infection leads to meningitis in about two thirds of the sick patients and life-threatening blood poisoning (sepsis) in one third.

The incubation period is usually two to four days. The spectrum of the course of the disease ranges from mild infections with few symptoms to death, which can occur within a few hours. Patients suffering from meningitis complain of a strong feeling of illness with fatigue, chills, high fever, vomiting, joint and muscle pain, cramps or loss of consciousness. The typical symptoms also include neck stiffness (she stiff neck), through which those affected begin to bury their heads in the strong hollow back in the pillow.

A life-threatening course of the disease is indicated, among other things, by decreased consciousness, punctiform skin bleeding and circulatory collapse. When the bacteria enter the bloodstream and flood the body with their toxins, life-threatening sepsis develops, which requires immediate inpatient treatment.

It is crucial for the chances of survival that antibiotic therapy is started as early as possible. Vaccination is the only way to prevent meningococcal infection. Ten to 20 percent of those affected suffer permanent damage from the disease. Around ten percent of patients with group C meningococcal die from the infection.

Experts believe that ten percent of the population carries the bacteria within them without becoming infected. It is said to be 40 percent under MSM, so this group is very likely to have a significantly higher risk of illness. (ag)

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