ATLANTA, June 11, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Parents in Georgia 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 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The Georgia Association of School Nurses (GASN) 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 Atlanta, GASN is rallying local organizations committed to adolescent health to help raise awareness and "boost" the area's vaccination rates.
"In Georgia, we are building an even stronger relationship with public health nurses, school nurses, parents, and healthcare providers to help improve our immunization rates among adolescents who receive their second booster of the meningococcal vaccine during the middle and high school years," said J. Patrick O'Neal, M.D., Director of Health Protection for the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). "Adolescents have the highest rates of meningitis and it is important to maintain a child's immunizations to protect against childhood preventable diseases."
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 when they are at greatest risk of infection, including their college years.
Many parents may be unaware of the importance of vaccination, which may have contributed to low immunization rates in Georgia. According to the CDC's most recent data, which cover immunization rates from 2010, only 63.5 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds in Georgia have received one or more doses of meningococcal vaccine, highlighting the ongoing need for educating parents about meningitis and vaccination.
"While meningococcal vaccination rates among adolescents in Georgia have improved, we're still not meeting the federal government's Healthy People 2020 goal of 80 percent," said Jeannie Edwards, R.N., past GASN director. "We are calling on county health departments in all 18 public health districts statewide, health care providers, community youth centers and civic groups with a stake in adolescent health to help us 'boost' our rates by educating parents about the importance of meningitis vaccination and the newly recommended booster dose for teens. My hope is that all Georgia parents will make sure their preteens and teens receive the meningitis vaccine now before attending summer camps, or before school starts this fall."
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.
About Voices of Meningitis "Boost Our Rates!"
The Voices of Meningitis "Boost Our Rates!" initiative 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.
Voices of Meningitis "Boost Our Rates!" includes educational materials for parents and health care 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 that 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.
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.
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 Georgia Association of School Nurses (GASN) is an affiliate of the NASN.
About the Georgia Department of Public Health
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is the lead agency in preventing disease, injury and disability; promoting health and well-being; and preparing for and responding to disasters from a health perspective. In 2011, the General Assembly restored DPH to its own state agency after more than 30 years of consolidation with other departments. At the state level, DPH functions through numerous divisions, sections, programs and offices. Locally, DPH funds and collaborates with Georgia's 159 county health departments and 18 public health districts. Through the changes, the mission has remained constant – to protect the lives of all Georgians. Today, DPH's main functions include: Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Maternal and Child Health, Infectious Disease and Immunization, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Emergency Medical Services, Pharmacy, Nursing, Volunteer Health Care, the Office of Health Equity, Vital Records, and the State Public Health Laboratory. For more information about DPH, visit www.health.state.ga.us.
For More Information
For more information about the Voices of Meningitis educational initiative, visit www.VoicesOfMeningitis.org, or join the conversation on Facebook. For information about the National Association of School Nurses, visit www.nasn.org or call 866-627-6767.
Voices of Meningitis "Boost Our Rates!" is a program of the National Association of School Nurses in collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi.
SOURCE National Association of School Nurses