SOURCE: National Meningitis Association

September 18, 2008 13:15 ET

Vaccination Is the Only Way to Prevent Meningitis

This Life-Threatening Disease Can Strike Anyone, at Any Age, at Any Time

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - September 18, 2008) - Infants, adolescents and young adults are at the highest risk of contracting meningococcal meningitis. Recognizing the symptoms and learning about vaccine prevention can save your child from its terrible consequences.

-- Lynn Bozof can still remember the phone call that changed her family's life forever. On a Wednesday morning, March 1998, her son Evan, a junior at Georgia Southwestern University, called to say he was having a terrible migraine headache. Hours later, he was in intensive care, diagnosed with meningococcal disease. Evan died 26 days later. If they had known about the vaccine, Evan would be alive today.

-- Melanie Benn was a freshman in college living in a dorm and home for a Christmas break. Rushed to the emergency room with flu-like symptoms, Melanie lost her arms and legs to meningococcemia and was on dialysis until her father donated a kidney to her. Her family learned later that there was a vaccine to prevent this disease.

-- At the age of 4, Lauren was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis. Her mother, Marybeth Leeber did not know about the disease or that there is a vaccine to prevent it. To save her daughter's life doctors had to amputate both Lauren's legs below the knee, her right hand, and part of her left hand and transplant a kidney.

In the hopes of sparing other parents and children from going through this agony, parents joined to form the National Meningitis Association to help educate the public and medical professionals about this devastating disease and how to prevent it.

There are about 3000 cases of meningococcal disease every year in the U.S. affecting all age groups. The disease is a serious, potentially fatal bacterial infection. Left untreated, it can progress rapidly, often within hours of the first symptoms, and can lead to shock, and serious complications. Knowing the symptoms can save lives. Prompt action can make the difference between life and death. The symptoms of meningitis include high fever, rash, headache, stiff neck, confusion, nausea, vomiting and exhaustion.

The majority of cases among adolescents are potentially vaccine preventable so it is important to know about meningococcal meningitis. Since it is difficult to recognize, understand and diagnose in those first crucial hours after onset, vaccination is the only prevention.

"With school back in session, now is a good time to get vaccinated," said Lynn Bozof, President of the National Meningitis Association. "The good news is this is a vaccine-preventable disease and we urge parents to talk with their children's health care providers about vaccination."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 10-12 percent of the cases are fatal. Among those who survive meningococcal disease, approximately 20 percent suffer long-term consequences, such as brain damage, kidney disease, hearing loss or limb amputations. Currently, the CDC recommends meningococcal disease immunization for all adolescents 11-18 years of age.

There is an effective meningitis vaccine for ages 2 - 55. Currently no vaccine is available that protects infants. New vaccines for infants are in development for this most vulnerable age group.

For more information about NMA and the organization's activities, or to contact a member of NMA, please visit or call 1-866-FONE-NMA (1-866-366-3662). For Video please visit

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Lynn Bozof
    President of the National Meningitis Association: