Has anyone in your community been affected by meningitis? Back in the summer of 2009 in my area of Colorado, two young men in their 20s who played in a hockey rec league contracted meningitis (meningococcal disease) and died. You can read the story here. A year later a couple of Colorado State University students were hospitalized with meningitis and one died. (You can read the story here.) I’m sure you could do a Google search of your area and the word “meningitis” and find similar stories about adults, teens and children.
Protect Infants Now
After hearing about these tragedies in my state, I made sure that my kids were vaccinated against meningitis. It’s also why I’m partnering with Meningitis Angels, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about meningitis and other vaccine-preventable diseases, to fight meningococcal disease via their Protect Infants Now (PIN) campaign.
The goal of PIN is to encourage the government to recommend the current meningococcal meningitis vaccines be given to infants since they’re most susceptible to meningococcal disease due to their immature immune systems. Through the online PIN petition, Meningitis Angels wants to encourage the CDC to include meningitis vaccines in the recommended vaccination schedule for infants.
What is meningitis?
According to the CDC:
Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial illness. It' is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children 2 through 18 years old in the United States. Meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain and the spinal cord. Meningococcal disease also causes blood infections.
About 1,000 – 1,200 people get meningococcal disease each year in the U.S. Even when they are treated with antibiotics, 10-15% of these people die. Of those who live, another 11%-19% lose their arms or legs, have problems with their nervous systems, become deaf or mentally retarded, or suffer seizures or strokes.
Anyone can get meningococcal disease. But it is most common in infants less than one year of age and people 16-21 years. Children with certain medical conditions, such as lack of a spleen, have an increased risk of getting meningococcal disease. College freshmen living in dorms are also at increased risk.
Meningococcal infections can be treated with drugs such as penicillin. Still, many people who get the disease die from it, and many others are affected for life. This is why preventing the disease through use of meningococcal vaccine is important for people at highest risk.
What’s so scary about the disease is that it typically starts off looking like the flu. It’s so aggressive a previously healthy child can die within 24-48 hours of the first symptoms.
What can you do about meningococcal disease?
First, no matter what your view is on vaccines, get educated about meningitis and the threat to you or your kids. Talk with your pediatrician or family doctor. Review the information available from the CDC. Then view the material on the Meningitis Angels and Protect Infants Now websites.
What really made up my mind that I did the right thing in making sure my kids were vaccinated and supporting the PIN campaign were videos like this one.
I can’t imagine anything worse watching your child suffer and die or to live with severe disfigurements and handicaps after contracting a preventable disease. If you feel the same way, I hope you’ll sign the petition at petitionbuzz.com/petitions/protectinfantsnow.
Also, if you have any questions about meningitis or the vaccine, there’s a box underneath the petition where you can chat online with a doctor.
Disclosure: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central and Meningitis Angels. This campaign was made possible in part through support provided by Novartis Vaccines. A small donation to a charity of my choice was made in my name from Mom Central as a thank-you for participating. All opinions in this posting are 100% my own.