KCUR Health
11:41 am
Tue July 20, 2010

School Nurses Step Up Meningitis Vaccine Efforts

Kansas City, MO – School nurses throughout the region are pushing for teens and pre-teens to get vaccinated for meningitis this summer.

Meningitis is a bacterial or viral disease that inflames the membranes around the brain and spinal chord. It can lead to cognitive problems and the loss of limbs, and is fatal about ten percent of the time.

Bacterial meningitis - the most commonly spread one among young adults - is preventable. There's a vaccine for it. Problem is, only about a third of Missouri kids have been vaccinated, according to a national immunization phone survey.

Kathy Pickering, a school nurse in Raytown and leader of the Greater Kansas City school nurses association chapter, says kids ages 11 to 18, as well as those getting ready to live in college dorms, need the shots... And, she tells everybody.

"The other day I was in Lowes and there were these teenage kids who were supposed to be working," says Pickering. "And they were passing around a water bottle. And I walked right up to them and said, 'hey kids, let me tell you about meningitis.' And at first they laughed at me. And when I left, they said, 'I'm going to tell my mom about that.'"

Pickering says bacterial meningitis is spread by common activities like sharing water bottles and kissing.

Unlike tetanus booster shots, Meningitis vaccinations are recommended but not required by Missouri schools. State health officials say that in part accounts for the lower vaccination rates.

In a typical year, more than 20 Missourians get the disease. It's killed 18 in the last five years.

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