October 19, 2007 / 1:17 AM / 12 years ago

FDA OK's meningitis vaccine for young children

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved the vaccination of children for bacterial meningitis, a potentially deadly neurological inflammatory infection.

The FDA expanded the age range for the vaccine Menactra, made by Sanofi-Aventis, to as young as 2 years old. Previously, the age range was 11 to 55.

“Approving Menactra for younger children offers another option for health-care providers and parents. Now there are two vaccines available for children between 2 and 10 years of age who may be at increased risk of meningitis,” said Dr. Jesse Goodman, director of FDA’s center for biologics.

Sanofi makes the other meningitis vaccine as well.

About 2,600 people fall ill annually from bacterial meningitis, an inflammation of the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord, with 10 percent dying from it, the FDA said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination for travelers to countries where the infection is a problem, those with damaged spleens, college students living in dorms and military recruits, among others.

The infection can cause seizures, brain damage, memory loss and death in otherwise healthy people in less than 48 hours, with a 15 percent fatality rate if treated with antibiotics.

Marked by fever, headache, and stiff neck, the relatively rare disease is more serious than viral meningitis.

Menactra was approved by the U.S. government in 2005. It has been linked with a few cases of a neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome among some teens.

The CDC has said it was investigating whether the vaccine caused the reaction, which has been associated with other vaccines.

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