MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

Voices of Meningitis and Sanofi Pasteur launch awareness campaign for young athletes

Voices of Meningitis, a public health initiative, and Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of integrated healthcare company Sanofi, announced the launch of a program on Thursday to educate parents about meningococcal disease.

The program, which is called Get in the Game: Keeping Teens Healthy, is meant to raise awareness about the serious consequences of meningococcal disease and motivate parents to talk to their healthcare professionals about getting their children vaccinated before each sports season.

While meningococcal disease is rare, it can develop quickly and become deadly in as little as one day. The bacteria that cause the disease can spread from common activities and athletes can be at greater risk of exposure because many sports involve equipment sharing and physical contact. Sports teams also take long bus trips, participate in group practices and change in cramped locker rooms, which can facilitate the spread of disease.

The Get in the Game program recruited multiple athletic spokespeople to form Team Voices, including Rayna DuBose, a meningococcal meningitis survivor and former Division I basketball standout at Virginia Tech University, Jamie Schanbaum, a meningococcal disease survivor and USA Cycling Paralympics Road National Championships gold medalist, and Dara Torres, a 12-time Olympic medal swimmer.

"Parents like me do all they can to protect their kids from harm, making sure they have the right equipment and protective gear when they're playing sports," Torres said. "But there is one thing parents might be forgetting to guard their kids against - meningococcal disease. As a mom of young athletes, I'm glad to lend my voice to this meaningful public health program about the serious consequences of meningococcal disease and the importance of vaccination. I hope that parents will feel empowered and motivated to speak with their children's health care professional to make sure their child is up to date with their vaccinations in advance of the sports season."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends routine meningitis vaccination of adolescents aged 11 through 18 years of age. Adolescents can receive a booster dose at age 16 if they receive their first dose prior to that age.