College students urged to get new vaccine to combat meningitis B

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- As college students prepare to head to the tight quarters of campus there's a new vaccine on the market to combat meningitis B.

This summer, the Indiana Immunization Coalition launched a campaign called 'Beware of B' to get the word out to young adults that this vaccine is now available.

A local doctor who serves on the coalition says this is a major development. Her family knows  the deadly disease firsthand.

"On Saturday she was shopping for a tennis skirt getting ready for her junior year of high school and on Sunday evening she was dead of meningitis," said Dr. Karla Loken.

Dr. Loken's older sister Laura was gone in a matter of hours.

"Just six hours later she was dead of cardiac arrest and internal organ failures because the bacteria had basically eaten her body alive that quickly," Dr. Loken said.

From that moment she has made it her mission to get the word out. Not only about the signs and symptoms of meningitis which include many flu symptoms like a fever, a stiff neck, nausea and vomiting.

But the goal is also about prevention through vaccinations. There's been a vaccine for other strains for many years. But this is the first year there's a vaccine for meningitis B.

"The reason it's been hard to get a vaccine for meningitis b is because the bacteria has a harder capsule and it was harder to develop the vaccine for it," Dr. Loken said.

The Indiana Immunization Coalition is urging young adults 16-23 years old and especially college students to get the vaccine. In 2015 in Indiana 5 of the 6 meningitis cases were the b strain. And just because this disease isn't common doesn't mean you shouldn't be mindful of how it's spread and take precaution.

"It's things like sharing chap sticks, drinking out of shared soda bottles and things like that because that's how the bacteria gets transmitted," Dr. Loken said.

She says this is a moment in medicine her family has been waiting for.

"We can just take a deep breath and say finally there is a vaccine for that and another family Doesn't have to go through what we went through, it can be prevented."

For more information on where to get the vaccine near local college campuses click here .

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