Public education campaign promotes awareness of meningitis |

Public education campaign promotes awareness of meningitis

South Shore meningitis survivor Amy Purdy has joined a campaign to encourage parents to vaccinate their children against the disease.

School nurses and families affected by a potentially deadly form of meningitis have launched a national consumer-education initiative called “Voices of Meningitis.” The initiative strongly urges parents to vaccinate preteens and teens, who are at greater risk of getting meningococcal disease, including meningococcal meningitis – a rare, but serious bacterial infection.

The National Association of School Nurses has joined with parents, survivors of meningococcal meningitis, and actress and mother Lori Loughlin (the new “90210,” “Full House”) to increase awareness of this potentially devastating disease that can take the life of a child in a single day.

“Many parents are unaware their preteen and teenage children are at risk for meningitis, and that vaccination is recommended to help protect preteens and teens 11 through 18 years of age and college freshmen living in dormitories,” said Sandi Delack, president of the National Association of School Nurses.

“School nurses are at the forefront of ensuring families in our communities know about meningococcal meningitis and vaccination – which is at the heart of our new ‘Voices of Meningitis’ initiative,” said Delack. “The national campaign aims to educate parents of preteens and teens about this disease and the importance of prevention.”

“Voices of Meningitis” is a multi-year initiative comprising widespread national and regional awareness activities to encourage parents to consider vaccination for their preteen and teenage children. The initiative encompasses a multitude of national media and public service activities, including television and radio public service announcements featuring Loughlin. The program also will equip thousands of school nurses throughout the U.S. with comprehensive messages and educational materials to reach communities with this important health message.

In addition, “Voices of Meningitis” offers a comprehensive Web site,, where visitors can hear the compelling stories of families that have been personally affected by meningitis and access information about the disease and the importance of vaccination.

“Meningitis has cut short and devastated the lives of too many young people,” Loughlin said. “As a mother of three, I helped to protect my children against this disease by ensuring they were vaccinated. I urge other parents to help protect their children as well by talking to their child’s school nurse about meningitis prevention or calling their health-care provider to schedule a vaccination appointment.”

Meningococcal disease, which includes meningitis, is a serious bacterial infection that strikes between 1,000 to 2,600 Americans each year. Although rare, meningococcal disease can cause meningitis (swelling of the brain or spinal cord) or meningococcemia (blood infection).

The disease can be spread through common everyday activities, such as sharing eating utensils and drinking glasses, living in close quarters like dormitories or summer camps, and kissing.

Meningococcal disease can be hard to recognize, especially in its early stages, because symptoms are similar to those of more common viral illnesses. Unlike more common illnesses, the disease can progress quickly and may cause death or disability in just a single day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading medical groups recommend meningococcal vaccination for preteens and teens 11 through 18 years of age, college freshmen living in dormitories and children 2 through 10 years of age who are at increased risk or if elected by their health-care providers and parents.

Vaccines are available for people who wish to reduce their risk for contracting the disease.

For more information about the “Voices of Meningitis” educational initiative, visit For information about the National Association of School Nurses, visit or call (866) 627-6767. For state specific information, select “Affiliate Organizations” under “QuickLinks” on the NASN homepage.

“Voices of Meningitis” is a program of the National Association of School Nurses in collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi-Aventis Group.

“I lost both of my legs, my kidneys, my spleen, part of my hearing, and almost my life to meningitis. And I’m one of the lucky ones,” says South Lake Tahoe resident Amy Purdy, who contracted meningococcal disease as a teenager.

Preteens and teens are at greater risk for getting meningitis and more likely to die than other age groups. “After a long battle, I learned to walk again with prosthetic legs and got a new kidney from my father. I also gained a new breadth of life and more gratitude then ever.”

Amy was always passionate about art, music, and action sports – snowboarding, skateboarding, and wakeboarding. She always believed she would have an impact on the lives of others, but Amy could never have guessed how.

One summer in July, Amy started to feel sick. After a day of flu-like symptoms, Amy was rushed to the hospital in a state of septic shock. “After 26 pints of blood and removal of my ruptured spleen, I was diagnosed with meningitis,” says Amy. “I was in a coma for nearly 3 weeks and my doctors gave me less than a 2 percent chance of survival.” Doctors were forced to amputate Amy’s legs below the knee to save her life. Amy also underwent a kidney transplant two years later, due to the damage the disease had caused.

Making a promise to never feel sorry for herself, Amy reached goals that many people who have both legs struggle to achieve – just weeks after her kidney transplant she competed in the United States of America Snowboard Association’s (USASA) snowboarding competition and won medals in three events. Today, Amy works as a model, actress, and make-up artist. She also co-founded Adaptive Action Sports – a non-profit organization that helps adaptive athletes get involved in action sports, music, and art – and was featured in a Tahoe Daily Tribune cover story on Sept. 5.

“If I knew about meningococcal disease, including meningitis, and that a vaccine existed to help prevent it, I would have made it a priority to get vaccinated,” says Amy. “When it comes to this disease, I was lucky. I know first-hand how serious it can be, and I want to help raise awareness about meningococcal meningitis and encourage preteens and teens to get vaccinated.”

To view a video of South Lake Tahoe meningitis survivor Amy Purdy talking about her battle with the disease, visit

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