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SILVER SPRINGS, Md. and SWIFTWATER, Pa. — Voices of Meningitis, a public health initiative of the National Association of School Nurses, in collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur, has announced the launch of Get in the Game: Keeping Teens Healthy, a new program to help educate parents on the danger and prevention of meningococcal disease.
Get in the Game is to help raise awareness about the serious consequences of the disease and motivate parents to speak with their children's healthcare professional about vaccinating against meningococcal disease in advance of each sports season.
Although rare, meningococcal disease develops rapidly and can claim the life of an otherwise healthy person in as little as one day after the first symptoms appear. Meningococcal disease, which includes meningitis, bacteremia (severe blood infection) and pneumonia, is spread through respiratory droplets. Common everyday activities can facilitate transmission of the bacteria that cause the disease, including kissing; sharing utensils and water bottles; being in close quarters, such as living in a dormitory or staying at a sleep-away summer camp. Athletes can be at greater risk of exposure to meningococcal disease, since many sports involve physical contact and equipment sharing. In addition, participating in group practices, being in cramped locker rooms, and taking long bus trips can facilitate the spread of germs from person to person.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that, following infancy, there is a second peak in meningococcal disease incidence among adolescents and young adults between 16 and 21 years of age.
As part of the Get in the Game program, champions for vaccination have come together to form Team Voices. Members include:
- Dara Torres, 12-time Olympic medal swimmer, New York Times best-selling author and mother of three;
- Beth Mattey, incoming president-elect of the National Association of School Nurses;
- Jamie Schanbaum, meningococcal disease survivor and USA Cycling Paralympics Road National Championships gold medalist;
- Rayna DuBose, meningococcal meningitis survivor and former Division I basketball standout at Virginia Tech.
Ten percent to 15% of the 800 to 1,200 Americans who get meningococcal disease each year will pass away from the disease. Of those who survive, nearly 1-out-of-5 are left with serious medical problems, including: amputation of arms, legs, fingers and toes; neurologic damage; deafness and kidney damage, according to the CDC.
To help protect against meningococcal disease, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends routine vaccination of adolescents aged 11 through 18 years (a single dose of vaccine should be administered at age 11 or 12 years, with a booster dose at age 16 years for children who receive the first dose before age 16 years).
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