It's back-to-school time and that means prime time for spreading infections which further shows the importance in students getting their shots. One shot in particular is getting extra emphasis right now and that is the meningococcal meningitis vaccine.
A new West Virginia state law that mandates that all
students entering 7th grade and 12th grade receive a dose of the meningococcal vaccine has aided in creating more awareness of the disease.
Putnam County school nurse Melanie Kearns on behalf of the West Virginia Association of School Nurses (WVASN) said 7th and 12 graders are at high risk for getting the deadly in school and it can be spread fairly easy. She said it's important for parents to talk to their doctors about the vaccine.
Meningitis is a disease that kills 10% of people who contract it, sometimes within 24 hours. According to the WVASN, more than half of the teens in the state have not been vaccinated for meningitis
For this reason the WVASN and Charleston public health leaders are calling on parents to get their preteen and teen kids vaccinated as part of an education initiative to raise awareness about the disease.
Kearns said for the most part, the extra awareness is resulting in more parents bringing their kids to get vaccinated, which is great. She said now is the best time to get it done.
"The school year is starting and parents are bringing their kids in for sports physicals and their annual checkups and it's a perfect time to start that conversation with their health care provider," said Kearns.
Public health officials recommend both an initial shot at ages 11-12 with a booster dose by age 18. Kids can get the vaccination from their family health care providers, school based health centers or from any local health departments.
Kearns said as more people become educated and more aware of meningitis, the vaccination rates in the state should continue going down.
This educational initiative is part of the National Association of School Nurses' Voices of Meningitis campaign to raise awareness about meningitis and help boost vaccination rates. If you have questions and want to learn more, go to www.VoicesOfMeningitis.org.
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