After Oologah outbreak, Oklahoma to give vaccinations

BY SONYA COLBERG Modified: March 17, 2010 at 9:11 pm •  Published: March 16, 2010

Editor's Note: A paragraph in this story has been deleted because it contained inaccurate information. Meningitis Angels founder Frankie Milley does not support legislation requiring the vaccination of children as young as 2 years old. She said she does support legislation requiring vaccinations for those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ages 11 through college freshmen.

OOLOGAH — Children and adults with Oologah-Talala Elementary School that experienced an outbreak of bacterial meningitis that killed two students will get vaccinations this week under a state Health Department plan.

Doses of the vaccine have been ordered and are expected to arrive in Oklahoma about midweek, said Dr. Kristy Bradley, state epidemiologist. About 550 children, ages 2 to 10, plus teachers and others affiliated with the school will be eligible for the immunizations, she said.

The grandmother of Jeremiah Mitchell, 6, one of five survivors of the disease, left his bedside at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa only long enough to be told that the state will be giving immunizations.

"Absolutely, that’s the best news I’ve had in days,” Carolyn Mitchell said. "And when do they plan to do that? Wonder what squeaky wheel was squeaking? Hallelujah, praise God!”

The family has been beside Jeremiah since the boy became ill at school Wednesday and was flown from Claremore Indian Hospital to St. Francis on Thursday morning.

She said Jeremiah remains in severely critical condition and in a medically induced comma.

Earlier on Monday, Mitchell had criticized the state Health Department for treating students with antibiotics but no immunizations.

"I’m just livid,” she said.

"The public needs to be informed of their choices. There is a vaccine available for 2 and up, but our Health Department only considers it important for 11 and up.”

Bradley said that the vaccine — used for three strains plus the "C” strain found in the outbreak — is labeled for ages 2 to 55 years but has only been routinely recommended for adolescents beginning at 11 years old.

Funding through a federal "Vaccines for Children” program applies to children from 11 to 18 years, she said.

The state Health Department was able on Monday to secure the federally funded vaccine for the 2 to 10 year age group because of the need to control the outbreak, Bradley said.


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seventh student has disease

The Rogers County and state Health Departments confirmed Monday that a seventh student in the Oologah-Talala School District has developed meningococcal disease.

"It is complicated because we have found no direct contact between this case and the other cases,” said Leslea Bennett-Webb, state Health Department spokeswoman.

Officials confirmed that she is in high school and is the first Oologah-Talala student outside of the elementary school to be infected.

The six Oologah-Talala students who contracted meningococcal disease last week were members of just two elementary school classes — one

kindergarten and the other second-grade.

Public health officials stressed that the general public is not at risk. Only people with close, personal contact to someone with a meningococcal infection have a slightly increased risk of developing the disease, according to a news release.

Family members and close contacts of the latest case will be able to receive antibiotics at a special clinic today at the Rogers County Health Department, 2664 N State Highway 88 in Claremore.

Symptoms of meningococcal disease may appear two to 10 days after infection. People ill with meningococcal septicemia may have fever, nausea, vomiting and a rash. People ill with meningitis will have fever, intense headache, nausea, vomiting and a stiff neck.

Sonya Colberg, Staff Writer

Kim Archer, Tulsa World

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