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Hope for last meningitis vaccine

Mon April 27th, 2009

A vaccine against the last remaining major cause of bacterial meningitis is "a very real prospect", British health officials have said.

Vaccination programmes have dramatically reduced rates of three kinds of meningitis - saving the lives of hundreds of children.

British director of immunisation Professor David Salisbury issued a report on progress against the disease for World Meningitis Day on Saturday.

The disease has struck terror in British families in recent decades as it can be hard to distinguish from flu until its late stages - which can leave a child seriously damaged or fighting for life.

The report says: "In the next three years, a vaccine against the last significant cause of bacterial meningitis, group B meningococcal disease, is a very real prospect. It means attempts to bring the disease most feared by parents to its knees could be in sight."

The last vaccine to be introduced was against the pneumococcal bug two years ago and it is thought to have prevented 900 cases and 50 deaths since then.

The first vaccine, the Hib vaccine, reduced rates of Hib infection to 12 a year amongst children under five.

And the third vaccine, against meningitis C, introduced ten years ago reduced deaths, which were running at 79 a year, to fewer than one a year.

Professor Salisbury said: "Thanks to our immunisation programme, thousands of children, young people and their families have been - and will continue to be spared the misery of meningitis, polio, measles, and even cervical cancer."

Meningitis charity spokeswoman Sue Davie said: "It is really encouraging that a Meningitis B vaccine is in the pipeline but we must remain vigilant for the signs and symptoms of the disease."

Tags: UK News | Infancy to Adolescence | Brain & Neurology

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