Is your teenager up-to-date on their vaccines?

Before your child heads off to summer camp or vacation this year, make sure they are up-to-date on their immunizations, especially pertussis and meningitis!

Between the ages of 11 and 12, every child needs a Tdap (includes pertussis) and Meningitis vaccine according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Between the ages of 16 and 17, they should get a meningitis booster before heading off the college.

“It is very important that parents make sure their children are up-to-date on their shots,” states Regina Hughes, RN, county nurse manager. “These are two diseases that you can help prevent your child from getting by ensuring they have received their needed vaccines.”

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a highly contagious respiratory infection characterized by a prolonged cough sometimes associated with a signature “whoop” sound. Symptoms are often like those of a common cold. Adults or children may have the disease and not know it: it starts with a runny nose, sneezing, and a mild fever, but after a couple of weeks, a severe cough develops and lasts for a prolonged period of time.

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It is spread through air droplets and direct contact with someone who is infected; however, it normally requires close contact with someone to become infected. People in the same household, roommates, or anyone with direct contact with someone’s saliva or spit (such as a partner) would be considered at increased risk of getting the infection.

“There is treatment for meningitis, which should be started right away,” says Hughes. “However, we encourage the vaccine as the first step in preventing this disease.”

Symptoms of meningitis appear suddenly and often include high fever, severe and persistent headache, stiff neck, muscle pains, nausea and vomiting. Changes in behavior such as confusion, sleepiness, and difficulty waking up make also occur.

Anyone needing a vaccine can come by the health department to catch up; appointments are not needed for immunizations. For more information on vaccine-preventable diseases visit or call Berrien County Health Department at 686-5411.