LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The county’s top public health officer warned Tuesday that cases of meningococcal disease are on the rise in Los Angeles and urged several at-risk groups to get vaccinations.

Seven cases of the life-threatening illness, which can cause meningitis and blood infections, have been reported since mid-March.

“The increase in cases of meningococcal disease in such a short period of time is higher than expected,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Department of Public Health. “Last year, there were a total of 21 such cases.”

The department is monitoring the cases and working with those infected to limit the spread of the bacterial disease of the bloodstream or meninges, the lining covering the brain.

Fielding said that a vaccine can prevent two of the three most common types of the disease found in the U.S.

The disease is spread by close contact with an infected person’s saliva or other secretions, not through casual contact or simply breathing the same air. Symptoms include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, skin rash and aversion to bright lights.

Fielding recommended vaccinations for several groups:

— all 11 and 12-year-olds with a booster between the ages of 16 and 18;

— children at high-risk for the disease between 2 and 10 years old, including those that travel to countries where meningococcal meningitis is epidemic;

— young adults living in a college dormitory;

— adults with compromised immune systems;

— microbiologists routinely exposed to the bacteria that carries the disease;

— military recruits; and

— those traveling to countries where the disease is common.

Less than half of 11 and 12-year-old children are vaccinated, according to Fielding.

In 2002, 13,000 people were struck and 1,500 were killed by a strain of meningococcal disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Comments (8)
  1. swhitS says:

    This is why we have immigration laws. However, the amount of mercury in those vaccines can cause Autism.

    1. Hank says:

      Wrong. Quit spreading lies about vaccines.

      1. TT says:

        what do you know about the vaccine – cause i am genuinly interested…Is there Mercury in it for starters?

  2. 951al says:

    Vaccines save more lives then they harm. Do not use the internet for your information, ask your physician.

  3. 951al says:

    Just for the record, vaccines do not cause Autism. It just so happens that the signs of Autism appear at the same time that preventative vaccines are given. There is a big debate of this, but there are billions of people who have been given vaccines, with no side effects what so ever. Do your home work and make a decision that works best for you.

  4. MML says:

    If vaccines cause autism, why isn’t everyone who has ever been vaccinated autistic??

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