Will Meningitis B Get Forgotten?
This post was sponsored by GSK, but all opinions are heartfelt and my own. I’m wishing all of you a safe and healthy holiday.
Most of us spend a lot of our waking hours worrying about Covid-19. We worry about how our jobs and businesses are impacted by the disease. We worry about older relatives and community members. We worry about our own health. But as moms, we also worry about our children. We worry about both their mental health living through online schooling and reduced contact with friends. We worry about their physical health, too. Those of us with older, more independent children worry about how safe they’re being when we don’t have eyes on them.
We’ve put so much focus on keeping ourselves and our families safe from COVID that we may have forgotten other risks. But, Covid-19 isn’t the only scary thing out there. Meningitis is an uncommon, but serious illness that can cause life-threatening complications.
Here are some facts you may not know about this disease¹ :
- Among those who contract meningitis, 1 in 10 will die, despite treatment, sometimes in as little as 24 hours².
- Up to 1 in 5 meningitis survivors suffer long-term consequences, such as brain damage, amputations, hearing loss and nervous system problems³.
- Early symptoms of meningitis may be similar to those of the flu, but can progress quickly and can be fatal, sometimes within 24 hours.² ⁴
¹ Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Chapter 8: Meningococcal Disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt08-mening.html. Reviewed December 2019. Accessed November 2020.
² Pelton SI. Meningococcal disease awareness: clinical and epidemiological factors affecting prevention and management in adolescents. J Adolesc Health. 2010;46:S9-S15
³ Meningococcal Disease: Clinical Information. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/clinical-info.html. Reviewed May 31, 2019. Accessed November 2020.
⁴ Meningococcal Disease: Signs and Symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/symptoms.html. Updated June 2017. Accessed November 2020.
A woman I work with knows a young boy who is deaf from meningitis and had a friend die of the disease in his twenties. Unfortunately, people in their late teens and early twenties have higher rates of meningitis due to close contact with each other¹. You know, things like sharing drinks or eating utensils, coughing, and of course, kissing⁵. In fact, while meningococcal disease is uncommon, studies have shown that between 2014-2017, the relative risk of contracting Meningitis B was 3.5 to 5 times higher in college students aged 18-24 years compared with people that age not attending college.⁶ ⁷ ⁸* ⁹†
⁵ – Meningitis. Overview. Mayo Clinic website. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/meningitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350508. Updated October 1, 2020. Accessed November 2020.
⁶ Gary S Marshall, Amanda F Dempsey, Amit Srivastava, Raul E Isturiz, US College Students Are at Increased Risk for Serogroup B Meningococcal Disease, Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society,piz024, https://doi.org/10.1093/jpids/piz024
⁷ Sarah A. Mbaeyi, Sandeep J. Joseph, et al. Meningococcal Disease Among College-Aged Young Adults: 2014-2016. Pediatrics. 2019; 143.
⁸* 0.17 cases in college students vs. 0.05 cases in peers not attending college per 100,000 population in 2014-2016
⁹† 0.22 cases in college students vs. 0.04 cases in peers not attending college per 100,000 population in 2015-2017
As the mother of a 20-year-old, these statistics are especially frightening to me. Fortunately, vaccination is available. Unfortunately, recent CDC data show that only about one in five 17-year-olds received one dose of Meningitis B vaccination in 2019, ¹⁰ which, according to CDC data from 2015-2018, accounted for more than 60% of meningitis cases among teens and young adults 16-23 years old.¹ In a recent online survey sponsored by GSK, 75% of parents of the 1500 surveyed said they either hadn’t vaccinated their children against Meningitis or were unsure if they had done so.¹¹ This may be because, while many colleges require MenACWY vaccination, MenB vaccination has only been available since 2014, and most colleges do not require it.¹²
¹⁰ National, Regional, State, and Selected Local Area Vaccination Coverage Among Adolescents Aged 13–17 Years — United States, 2019. 2020; 69(33). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/pdfs/mm6933-H.pdf. Reviewed August 21, 2020. Accessed November 2020.
¹¹ Findings of Ipsos survey conducted in the United States during the months of February and March 2020. The survey included 1,500 parents of teens/young adults age 16-23. Funding for the survey was provided by GSK.
¹² Vaccines and Preventable Diseases. Meningococcal Vaccination for Adolescents: Information for Healthcare Professionals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/hcp/adolescent-vaccine.html. Reviewed July 26, 2019. Accessed November 2020.
Although vaccination may not protect all recipients and does not prevent viral meningitis, according to CDC, vaccines are still the best defense against bacterial meningitis.¹³ Luckily, the GSK/IPSOS survey also shows that parents’ likelihood to request vaccination and urge other parents to do so grows significantly after receiving information about meningitis.⁹ So, please consider this your call to action. You can visit meningitisb.com for more information. Then, talk to your child’s doctor about the two vaccines available to help protect against the five vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis – A, C, W, Y and B – and all CDC-recommended vaccines. ¹⁴ ¹⁵
¹³ Meningococcal disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/prevention.html. Updated March 28, 2017. Accessed November 2020.
¹⁴ Vaccine Information Statements (VISs): Meningococcal ACWY VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mening.html. Updated August 2019. Accessed November 2020.
¹⁵ Vaccine Information Statements (VISs): Meningococcal B VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mening-serogroup.html. Updated August 2019. Accessed November 2020.
As parents of teens and young adults, we have so much to worry about these days. Let’s not add vaccine-preventable disease to the list. Educate yourself, and your friends, about Meningitis B.
Vaccination may not protect all recipients.