Protect adolescents against meningococcal disease, association urges pediatricians

October 12, 2004

Founding board members of the National Meningitis Association (NMA) know all too well the devastating effects of meningococcal disease. Their adolescent or young adult children have either died or suffered permanent disability as a result of the disease. This week, the NMA came to the Exhibit Hall of the AAP 2004 National Conference and Exhibition to encourage pediatricians to educate their patients' parents about meningococcal disease and the benefits of immunization.

Founding board members of the National Meningitis Association (NMA) know all too well the devastating effects of meningococcal disease. Their adolescent or young adult children have either died or suffered permanent disability as a result of the disease. This week, the NMA came to the Exhibit Hall of the AAP 2004 National Conference and Exhibition to encourage pediatricians to educate their patients' parents about meningococcal disease and the benefits of immunization.

NMA's outreach to pediatricians at AAP's meeting is particularly timely: There are several new pertinent developments expected in the near future. First, a new conjugate vaccine may soon be available that is anticipated to provide longer-term protection and a boostable immune response. Second, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has formed a working group to help develop new immunization recommendations that specifically target adolescents. These new recommendations could be approved in a matter of months.

"NMA's goal at this conference is to help raise physician awareness about promising new developments in meningococcal disease prevention and encourage them to begin speaking with their adolescent patients' parents about meningococcal disease," said Candie Benn, a board member of the NMA. "By getting the word out about the seriousness of the disease and prevention approaches, NMA hopes to prevent other families from the devastating effects of meningococcal disease our families have faced."

Adolescents and young adults are at risk of this serious bacterial infection, which can result in limb amputation, hearing loss, organ damage, and death. Nearly one in four cases among adolescents result in death, Benn noted, and as many as 20% of survivors suffer permanent disabilities.

(Information about meningococcal disease and immunization for parents, patients, and clinicians, and about the NMA, can be found at the association's Web site: www.nmaus.org.)