NASN, Sanofi Pasteur team up to raise awareness of meningitis

NEW YORK — Meningococcal meningitis is rare but can kill preteens and teenagers in as little as a day. Yet many kids still engage in behaviors that put them at risk of contracting the disease despite not being vaccinated.

The National Association of School Nurses, working with Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of French drug maker Sanofi, released results of a survey conducted as part of the Voices of Meningitis back-to-school vaccination awareness initiative. The initiative has enlisted as a celebrity spokeswoman singer and Disney Channel star Tiffany Thornton, who nearly died from meningococcal disease as a teenager.

"Most of our preteens and teens are unprotected against meningitis and at the same time are regularly engaging in behaviors that may put them at risk," NASN president Linda Davis-Alldritt said. "While we may not be able to prevent our teens from engaging in these activities, we can take steps to help protect them by making sure they are immunized against meningitis."

According to survey results, almost half of all preteens and teenagers are unvaccinated against meningococcal disease, and there is low awareness of the disease among kids and parents.

In addition, more than 80% of kids ages 11 to 17 years reported engaging in everyday activities that put them at risk, including sharing drinking glasses and water bottles, not getting enough sleep, living in places like dormitories and kissing.