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MASS inoculation against meningitis outbreak begins in Ohio


SALEM, Ohio (AP) _ With grimaces and brave looks, the first of up to 5,800 Ohio high school students and teachers rolled up their sleeves and got their shots Friday in a mass inoculation against a meningitis-related outbreak that has killed two teen-agers.

The outbreak has spread fear and confusion through this blue-collar area about 40 miles from Cleveland. Classes and graduations were canceled Friday, and thousands of students and parents stood in line at vaccination centers set up at schools.

``It's basically a relief to get the shot,'' said Carey Rogers, 17, who was vaccinated at Salem. ``A couple of my friends had a couple of parties but my mom wouldn't let me go to their house. You got to think about it with everything you do.''

The mass vaccinations were recommended by the state Health Department for students and staff at six schools. The state is paying for the $55-per-dose vaccine. Surrounding counties donated nurses and needles.

Two 15-year-old students at West Branch High in Beloit died two weeks ago of meningococcemia, a blood infection caused by the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. The same bacteria also cause meningitis, a disease of the brain. School officials have said the two may have passed the infection by sharing a water bottle at a picnic.

A third student, Christin VanCamp, a senior at Marlington High, also developed a blood infection from the bacteria. The 18-year-old student, who had been in a coma, was upgraded to satisfactory condition Friday.

The bacteria are spread through saliva.

On Friday, an early morning rush led to long lines at the schools.

At West Branch High, officials said they vaccinated 450 students in the first hour.

By 2 p.m., about 2,000 people had received the shots at all four high schools where inoculations took place.

Over the weekend, thousands of residents lined up at hospitals for hours to receive antibiotics, which are effective for a day or two. The vaccine protects for three to five years.

The vaccine is up to 90 percent effective against the bacteria, said Dr. Nancy Rosenstein of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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