While parents may have grades and carpools on the mind, they should know that meningococcal disease is the result of a rare, but serious bacterial infection that can progress very rapidly and take the life of an otherwise healthy person in as little as one day. Symptoms that parents and their teens should watch out for could include stiff neck, fever, lethargy, sensitivity to light, irritability, headaches and vomiting.
With school in session, kids are going to bed later and waking up earlier; the resulting fatigue may raise the risk of meningococcal disease, possibly by weakening the immune system. Common activities such as sharing water bottles and utensils can also facilitate the spread of the disease. As fall sports season approaches, student athletes can be at greater risk of exposure to meningococcal disease, since cramped locker rooms and long bus trips can increase the risk of exposure to the germs.
To help raise awareness about the serious consequences of meningococcal disease and urge parents to take action and vaccinate against the disease, the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) partnered with Sanofi Pasteur to launch Get in the Game: Keeping Teens Healthy. Get in the Game is a national Campaign that is a part of the Voices of Meningitis educational program and features Olympic swimmer and mom Dara Torres along with meningococcal disease survivors.
“As a mother, I know how busy this time of the year can be, running from one sports practice to another,” says Torres. “But parents shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of vaccination for meningococcal disease. I hope that parents will feel empowered and motivated to speak with their children’s health care provider to make sure their child is up-to-date with their vaccinations.”
Adolescents and young adults can be especially vulnerable to the disease; however, many parents aren’t aware that this disease is a threat or that there are vaccinations - recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - available to help prevent this disease.
“At NASN, we want parents to know about the serious consequences of meningococcal disease and the importance of vaccination,” says NASN’s President Elect, Beth Mattey, MSN, RN, NCSN. “In addition, as a school nurse, I want parents to know that teens who have already been vaccinated for meningococcal disease may now need a booster to help protect them during the years when they are at greater risk of infection. The new school year is an excellent time to have that conversation with your health care provider.”
Visit Facebook.com/VoicesofMeningitis to learn more about meningococcal disease and the Get in the Game Campaign.