Voices of Meningitis, an educational initiative of the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) along with Sanofi Pasteur, is an effort to spread the word of the dangers of meningitis, and to urge preteens and teens to get immunized against the disease.
Though the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends vaccination for children in this age group against meningococcal disease—the serious bacterial infection that can cause meningitis—only 54 percent of teenagers currently are vaccinated.
As part of the Voices of Meningitis effort, the Voices of Meningitis Challenge was created in 2010 to encourage school nurses across the nation to raise awareness of the vaccination in their schools through educational materials and presentations. The Challenge recently honored five school nurses that have put forth exemplary efforts for the cause. Those five nurses are:
- Adalia Del Bosque, RN, BSN — McAllen, Texas. Used her high school’s college night to offer a vaccination opportunity to primarily uninsured students.
- Christine Chapman, RN — Hazelwood, Mo. Raised awareness of the importance of meningitis vaccination at a school district health fair using Voices of Meningitis materials.
- Carrie Clarke, RN — Sioux Falls, S.D. Created a program aimed at the parents of 5th graders to combat South Dakota’s 24.9 percent meningococcal vaccination rate among adolescents.
- Rebecca Vogt, RNC, BSN, NASN — Claypool, Ind. Through the Children and Hoosier Immunization Registry Program (CHIRP), Vogt was able to ensure all of the 6th graders in her district were immunized.
- Georgene Westendorf, RN, BSN, NCSN, MPH — Oklahoma City, Okla. Worked with the Oklahoma health department and Blue Cross Blue Shield to arrange clinics that promoted meningococcal immunization to school nurses.
The following are five key facts all nurses should know about meningitis, provided by the Voices of Meningitis campaign.
- Unlike viral meningitis, meningococcal disease, which can cause meningitis, can potentially kill an otherwise healthy young person within one day after the first symptoms appear.
- Meningococcal disease can be difficult to recognize, especially in its early stages because meningitis symptoms are similar to those of more common viral illnesses, including high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, vomiting, exhaustion, and/or a rash.
- Many survivors of meningococcal meningitis can be left with serious medical problems that may include amputation of limbs, fingers, or toes, severe scarring, brain damage, hearing loss, kidney damage, and psychological problems.
- Even people who are usually healthy can get meningitis. However, data from the CDC have shown that the risk of getting meningitis increases in teens and young adults.
- Common everyday activities can spread meningococcal disease. This includes kissing, sharing utensils and drinking glasses, living in close quarters such as a dormitory or summer camp, and smoking or being exposed to smoke. Activities that can make teens feel run down, such as staying out late and having irregular sleeping patterns, may also put them at greater risk for meningitis by weakening their immune system.