Study finds many mothers lack of knowledge of meningococcal meningitis

A recent study found that many mothers do not know the extent of the dangers posed by meningococcal meningitis.

The online survey, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the public health initiative Voices of Meningitis, asked 2,000 U.S. mothers about their knowledge regarding the disease. It discovered that 45 percent of the mothers did not know meningococcal meningitis can be deadly within 24 hours. A large majority were not aware of other effects of the disease, including hearing loss or the eventual loss of limbs, fingers or toes.

Two in three mothers are not aware of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations to prevent meningococcal meningitis infection, which include vaccinating children twice. More than a quarter thought the primary dose was important but that the secondary, which is recommended at age 16, is not essential.

"Those aged 16-21 are at increased risk of the disease, and current CDC data suggest that vaccine protection wanes in most teens within five years," Carolyn Duff, the president of the National Association of School Nurses, said. "Therefore, it's important to understand that teens who have had the first dose of meningococcal vaccine now need a second vaccination to help protect them when they are at greater risk of infection."

Approximately half of all meningococcal cases are meningitis. Meningococcal meningitis develops rapidly and causes swelling of tissue around the brain and spinal cord. Up to 15 percent of the 800-1,2000 Americans who contract meningococcal meningitis each year die from the disease, and one in five of those who survive live with serious medical conditions, such as the loss of limbs, neurological or kidney damage and deafness.