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Friday, February 11, 2005; Page A14

Meningitis Vaccination Urged for Students

All college freshmen who live in dorms should be vaccinated for meningitis, a government panel recommended yesterday, reversing policy of the past. The panel is also advising doctors to give the shot to all 11- and 12-year-old children and recommending that it be provided to at least 4 million children eligible under the federal children's vaccine program.

Because each dose is expected to cost about $100 and only 3,000 cases of meningococcal meningitis are reported each year, "it won't save money," said Mark Messonnier, an economist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who helped do a cost-effectiveness study of the plan. "It is a strategy that will save lives," he said.

The recommendation was sparked largely by a new vaccine, Menactra, made by Sanofi Pasteur. It is effective for more than eight years, whereas the old vaccine lasted for three to five years. The old vaccine also didn't prevent people from being carriers of the bacteria; the new one does.

College freshmen who live in dormitories are six times as likely as other people to be infected with meningitis, the CDC said.

While the disease is rare, it is devastating. Those who don't die often are left with severe complications, such as amputations or brain damage.

A Hot Forecast For the Year

Last year was the fourth-warmest in recorded history, continuing a 30-year global warming trend, and 2005 could be the hottest year ever, an annual NASA study says .

The average global temperature in 2004 was 0.48 degrees Celsius (0.86 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1951 to 1980 average, wrote James Hansen of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. The warmest year on record was 1998, and the second- and third-warmest were 2002 and 2003.

An increase in greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor, combined with the warm-weather phenomenon known as El Niño, may make 2005 the warmest year on record, Hansen wrote.

El Niño contributed to the rise in temperatures in 1998, 2002 and 2003.

The study by Hansen used land temperatures from meteorological stations and satellite measurements of ocean temperatures.

Fear of Controversy Inhibits Research

Some scientists are thinking twice about doing or reporting certain research, reacting to political and social controversy in addition to legal restrictions.

"It appears that controversy shapes what scientists choose to study and how they choose to study it, and we need to look a little bit more closely at the effects it might be having," said Joanna Kempner of the University of Michigan.

Kempner and co-authors from Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania conducted in-depth interviews with 41 scientists engaged in a variety of studies. They found that half felt constrained by formal limits, but even more said they were affected by informal or unspoken rules on what and how studies can be done.

The findings are reported in yesterday's issue of the journal Science.

Researchers cited fears about the anger of interest groups, such as opponents of animal testing, or about how a project would be perceived by the public.

One researcher told Kempner's team: "I would like to lunatic-proof my life as much as possible."

-- From News Services

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