Dallas-Ft. Worth Faces Meningococcal Disease Crisis

By US Daily Review Staff.

Parents in Texas 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 Texas School Nurses Organization (TSNO) has joined organizations and community leaders on an initiative to ensure that parents are aware of the new Texas meningococcal vaccination requirement for all incoming seventh graders and all incoming college students under 30 years of age.  In bringing the National Association of School Nurses and Sanofi Pasteur’s Voices of Meningitis “Boost Our Rates!” initiative to Dallas-Fort Worth, TSNO is rallying local organizations committed to adolescent health to help raise awareness and “boost” the area’s vaccination rates by educating parents about current vaccination recommendations.

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.

TSNO is urging parents to talk to their child’s health care provider about the booster dose of meningococcal vaccination for their teen before 18 years of age.  Besides helping to protect teens, the booster dose also fulfills the Texas state meningococcal vaccine requirement for new college students, and ensures that eligible teens can get the vaccine for free or at low cost through the federally funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, which covers children through age 18.  Parents should speak with their local public health department or health care provider to learn if they qualify.

Many parents may also be unaware of the importance of vaccination, which may have contributed to low immunization rates in Texas, where more than a third of 13- to 17-year-olds have not been vaccinated against meningitis, and highlights the ongoing need for educating parents about meningitis and vaccination.

“While meningococcal vaccination rates among adolescents in Texas have improved, we’re still well behind public health goals,” said Kimberly Clark, RN, BSN, School Nurse, Richardson Independent School District.  “We 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.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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