Parents need to remember something other than pencils, folders and backpacks when it comes to the new school year.  State health officials want to remind parents to check their pre-teens and college freshmen for current immunizations before the school year gets underway.

State epidemiologist for the Department of Health, Dr. Lon Kightlinger,  wants to remind parents to especially be aware of Meningococcal disease and pertussis.

Meningococcal disease is a bacteria infection that will cause inflammation of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord.  The symptoms include a fever, severe headache, stiff neck, vomiting and a rash.  About 10 to 14 percent of the people that catch this disease die, and up to 19 percent may have permanent disabilities such as hearing loss, amputation or even brain disease.  Dr. Kighlinger says,

College freshmen living in dorms and unvaccinated kids that are entering high school are at a higher risk for meningococcal disease and need to be vaccinated.

Pertussis, which many people know as whooping cough, is very contagious and is often spread through the air by coughing.  Early symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, a low-grade fever and a mild cough...with the cough becoming more severe.

The Meningococcal vaccine can be given by family doctors or campus student health centers.

The pertussis vaccine is given in a series of doses at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months of age and between the ages of 4 and 6 years, but a booster dosage is recommended for kids between 11 and 12 years old and also adults.

Learn more about meningitis or whooping cough and find a vaccine provider before sending your children to school.