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Expert Advice: What Parents Need To Know About Meningitis

It’s summer and while students enjoy a few weeks of freedom, many parents are thinking ahead to the new school year by purchasing school supplies, completing necessary paperwork, and getting their teen’s schedule in order to return to school. Whether it’s high school or college, not only are parents trying to help get their teenager prepared for the classroom, but they also need to make sure they’re healthy and ready to tackle the new school year, which can often mean trying to squeeze in their annual physical or checkup for things like screenings, prescription refills, and vaccinations.


A national U.S. online survey conducted by Pfizer Inc, in partnership with TIME Health, assessed U.S. parents of full-time high school students (ages 13-18) and found the majority (81%) of parents rely on their child’s doctors to safeguard them against preventable illnesses.[i] Therefore, these appointments can be crucial. Almost half (48%) of parents don’t believe teens and young adults are at high risk for acquiring meningococcal disease, including meningitis—but their behaviors could expose them.1 Behavior that can be very typical for teens and young adults—such as sharing food and drinks and living in close quarters—may seem normal, but can increase their risk for serious illness, including meningococcal disease.[ii] Meningococcal disease, including meningococcal group B disease (MenB), although uncommon, can lead to death within 24 hours[iii],[iv] and in survivors may result in life-altering, significant long-term disabilities.[v],[vi]


Meningococcal disease can progress rapidly, and early symptoms are difficult to distinguish from other more common infections—with flu-like symptoms such as headache, nausea and vomiting.3 Meningococcal group B disease (MenB) specifically accounts for nearly 60% of all U.S. meningococcal cases in 16-23 year olds.[vii]


To help parents of high school students better understand this uncommon but serious disease, Tamera Coyne-Beasley, MD, MPH, Professor of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at the University of North Carolina, is available via satellite on Tuesday, June 19. Dr. Coyne-Beasley will share additional survey findings and her insights, including:1


  • Few parents feel “very confident” that they (32%) or their child (21%) know most of the preventative actions to help protect themselves against meningococcal disease, including meningitis.
  • While the majority (76%) of parents say their child is fully vaccinated against meningococcal disease, 73% are unsure which groups of meningococcal disease their child has been vaccinated against.
  • When it comes to MenB, few parents knew that teens and young adults are at increased risk (27%) or that vaccination could help prevent it (28%). Dr. Coyne-Beasley will share why teens and young adults are at increased risk for acquiring meningococcal disease, including meningitis.


With 95% of parents agreeing more information should be available about how to help prevent MenB among teens and young adults,1 summer break is a good opportunity for parents to make an appointment with their teen or young adult’s health care provider, and Dr. Coyne-Beasley joined me to share key questions to ask during that appointment.


If you’re a parent and have questions about meningococcal disease, including MenB, the first and best step you can take is to talk to your child’s health care provider. To learn more, please visit www.MeetMeningitis.com. Additionally, take a look below for more information and advice from Dr. Coyne-Beasley.


Wife. Mom. Believer. Writer. Advocate.

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