Meningitis Information For Parents

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(KPLR) - The Missouri Association of School Nurses and Gateway Immunization Coalition are working to educate parents to help protect adolescents from meningococcal meningitis.

Linda Neumann, a registered nurse with the Missouri Association of School Nurses and she is with the Webster Groves School District.

Linda explains the new recommendation from health officials about vaccines for children.

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About Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease is a serious infection that includes meningitis (swelling of the brain or spinal cord) and meningococcemia (blood infection).  Activities common among adolescents, such as sharing drinking glasses, living in close quarters like dormitories or overnight summer camps and kissing, can increase their risk for contracting the disease.  Meningococcal disease can be hard to recognize, especially in its early stages, because symptoms are similar to those of common viral illnesses.  Unlike more common illnesses, the disease can progress quickly and may cause death or disability in just a single day.

Public health officials recommend meningococcal vaccination for adolescents starting at age 11 or 12, with a booster dose by 18 years of age.  Parents should talk to their school nurse or health care provider for more information.

Vaccination against meningococcal disease has been available for decades for people who have wished to reduce their risk for contracting the disease.

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Parents in Missouri may be unaware that their adolescent children are at risk of contracting a serious, potentially fatal bacterial infection called meningococcal disease if they have not received the second (booster) dose of meningococcal vaccine now recommended by public health officials.

The Missouri Association of School Nurses (MASN) has joined organizations and community leaders across the country on a national initiative to ensure that parents are aware of the current meningococcal immunization recommendations, and that both preteens and teens get vaccinated.  In bringing the National Association of School Nurses and Sanofi Pasteur’s Voices of Meningitis “Boost Our Rates!” initiative to St. Louis, MASN and the Gateway Immunization Coalition are rallying local organizations committed to adolescent health to help raise awareness and “boost” the area’s vaccination rates.

Meningococcal disease, which can cause meningitis, may be rare, but it can kill an otherwise healthy child in just a single day.  Vaccination is the most effective way to help protect against meningitis, and public health officials recommend vaccination at age 11 or 12 years, with a booster dose for teens by 18 years of age to help protect them during the years when they are at greatest risk of infection.

Many parents may be unaware of the importance of vaccination, which may have contributed to low immunization rates in Missouri, where only 49 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds have been vaccinated against meningitis, and highlights the ongoing need for educating parents about meningitis and vaccination.

School nurses aren’t the only ones raising their “voice.”  National and community organizations across the country have joined the Voices of Meningitis “Boost Our Rates!” initiative by pledging their support to spread this important message and “boost” meningococcal vaccination rates among adolescents nationwide.  To view a list of organizations supporting the initiative, visit www.nasn.org.