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Friday, 2 August, 2002, 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK
Meningitis jabs for hard of hearing
implant
Cochlear implants - how they work
Thousands of people in the UK who have a high-tech hearing aid fitted are to be vaccinated against meningitis.

The Medical Devices Agency issued guidance on Friday following concerns that people who are fitted with cochlear implants may be at increased risk of infection.


Parents and patients should be reassured that this remains a small risk

Dr Pat Troop
The implants consist of an electrode permanently implanted into the inner ear which receives information by radio waves from a separate microphone and electronic unit.

It emerged this week that there has been a reported increase in the number of cases of bacterial meningitis worldwide in patients with cochlear implants.

There have been around 25 cases diagnosed in patients aged between 21 months and 63 years, but only one suspected case in the UK which was successfully treated.

The MDA has concluded that cochlear implant patients may be at increased risk from bacterial meningitis, especially where the person has not been vaccinated.

Jab offers

The Department of Health confirmed everyone with a cochlear implant would be offered a vaccine to protect them from the disease.

All patients and GPs will be notified and be offered the appropriate vaccine in due course.

All children under two will get the pneumococcal vaccine Prevenar and people aged over two will get 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine.

Dr Pat Troop, deputy chief medical officer, said cochlear implants had been highly successful in restoring hearing in profoundly deaf people.

She said there were 3,300 people with implants in the UK, but only one suspected case has been reported.

She said: "Parents and patients should be reassured that this remains a small risk.

"We will be writing to all cochlear implant centres informing clinicians of the new information received and asking them to contact patients and their GPs to ensure that patients receive vaccination where necessary."

Early symptoms of meningitis include fever, irritability, lethargy and loss of appetite in young babies and children.

Older children and adults may also develop headaches, stiff necks, nausea, vomiting and confusion.

Barbara Homer, of the National Deaf Children's Society, said: "Parents should not be alarmed but it is important to be aware of the risk in order to spot it and treat the infection if it arises.

"However, it is also important that parents do not overestimate the danger or give way to panic."

The MDA is liaising with cochlear implant manufacturers and the British Cochlear Implant Group to determine the number of known meningitis cases.

See also:

18 Oct 01 | Health
06 Mar 02 | Scotland
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