CHARLESTON, W.Va., June 19, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Parents in West Virginia 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 West Virginia Association of School Nurses (WVASN) 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 Charleston, WVASN is 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.
New to the 2012-2013 school year, West Virginia requires incoming seventh graders to show proof of one dose of meningococcal vaccination, while those entering twelfth grade need to show proof of a second dose of meningococcal vaccination after age 16.
Many parents may be unaware of the importance of vaccination, which may have contributed to low immunization rates in West Virginia, where only 46 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds have been vaccinated against meningitis, and highlights the ongoing need for educating parents about meningitis and vaccination.
"While meningococcal vaccination rates among adolescents in West Virginia have improved, we're still well behind public health goals," said Melanie Kearns, school nurse at Putnam County Schools. "We, the West Virginia Association of School Nurses, are calling on public health officials, community centers, civic groups and others to help us 'boost' our rates by educating parents about the importance of meningitis vaccination and the newly recommended booster dose for teens."
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 West Virginia Association of School Nurses (WVASN) is an affiliate of the NASN.
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