Group Calls for Boost in Meningitis Vaccinations
The West Virginia Association of School Nurses (WVASN)has joined more than 30 state and national health organizations across the country in support of the Voices of Meningitis "Boost Our Rates!" initiative, to help educate parents about the importance of meningococcal vaccination for their preteens and teens. Since January 2012, 839 adolescents have been vaccinated against meningococcal infection at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. WVASN is bringing "Boost Our Rates!" to Charleston, WV this back-to-school season to further increase the meningitis vaccination rates in West Virginia.
Along with school nurses, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, and people who have been affected by meningitis are all calling on parents to get their preteen and teen children vaccinated. Public health officials recommend vaccination for preteens and teens starting at age 11 or 12 years, with a booster dose by 18 years of age to help protect them during the years when they are at greatest risk of infection.
A new West Virginia state law currently in effect mandates that all students entering seventh grade receive a dose of the meningococcal vaccine and those entering twelfth grade receive at least one dose of the meningococcal vaccine after their sixteenth birthday.
"Universal vaccination is a critical part of quality healthcare and we strongly believe that the new law will help further protect West Virginia's school children from vaccine preventable diseases such as bacterial meningitis," stated Dr. Rahul Gupta, health officer and executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
"I learned about meningitis the worst way possible," said Georgia State Representative Amy Carter, who is helping spread the word about meningitis prevention around the country. "My brother Bubba died from meningitis while he was in high school, and I miss him every day. By sharing my story, I hope that parents will help protect their children from this devastating disease by getting them vaccinated."
Vaccination is the most effective way to help prevent meningococcal meningitis, which may be rare but can kill an otherwise healthy child in just a single day.Back-to-school time is an especially important opportunity for parents to get their children vaccinated, as many activities that go hand-in-hand with preteens and teens returning to school, such as sharing drinking glasses and water bottles, kissing and being in close proximity for long periods of time, can increase their risk for contracting meningitis.
"School nurses are on the front lines every day when it comes to protecting our students' health, so we see how devastating infectious diseases can be, especially meningitis," said Melanie Kearns, school nurse at Putnam County Schools. "Parents can take an easy step toward helping protect their preteens and teens now by getting them vaccinated against meningitis."
About Voices of Meningitis "Boost Our Rates!"
The Voices of Meningitis "Boost Our Rates!" initiative from the National Association of School Nurses with support from Sanofi Pasteur brings together the many "voices" of meningitis – school nurses, parents whose children have been affected by the disease, survivors of meningococcal meningitis and public health professionals – to raise awareness about the dangers of meningococcal meningitis and the importance of vaccination for preteens and teens. More than 30 state and national health organizations have pledged their support to spread this important message and "boost" meningococcal vaccination rates among adolescents. To view a list of supporting organizations, visit http://portal.nasn.org/VOMProclamation/.
Voices of Meningitis "Boost Our Rates!" offers educational materials for parents and healthcare providers and features a comprehensive website, www.VoicesOfMeningitis.org, and a Facebook page where visitors can join the conversation and hear compelling stories of families who have been personally affected by meningitis.
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. Vaccination against meningococcal disease has been available for decades for people who have wished to reduce their risk for contracting the disease.
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 healthcare provider for more information.
About the National Association of School Nurses
The National Association of School Nurses is a non-profit specialty nursing organization, organized in 1968 and incorporated in 1977, representing school nurses exclusively. NASN has over 15,000 members and 51 affiliates, including the District of Columbia and overseas. The mission of the NASN is "to advance the specialty practice of school nursing to improve the health and academic success of all students." To learn more about the NASN, please visit us on the Web at www.nasn.org. The West Virginia Association of School Nurses (WVASN) is an affiliate of the NASN.
Source: National Association of School Nurses