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Meningitis: Nearly a Third of Tennessee Adolescents Not Vaccinated

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (ANFINSON)  --  One-in-ten cases is fatal, yet nearly a third of Tennessee adolescents are not vaccinated for Meningitis. School nurses in Tennessee and beyond are speaking out on the issue.

In a campaign to prevent meningitis, the National Association of School Nurses has formed Voices of Meningitis. They provide facts, advice, and video testimonials from real people who have been affected by the disease.

“If you’re a parent, listen closely to the voices of meningitis. It was a Tuesday. Becky said she didn’t feel well. On Wednesday, we said our final goodbyes.’”

Marcha Buchanan is one of the many voices. Her two sons became sick with Meningitis before there was even a vaccine available. Today, her boys are alive and well, but the oldest had to have his legs amputated to stop the disease from spreading.

Buchanan initially took her oldest son to the doctor with a fever and sore throat. By the next morning, the symptoms were life threatening.

“He woke up. I was gonna take him to the doctor, and he had purple spots all over his skin--under the skin--and he could not walk... They sent me immediately to Le Bonheur (Children’s Hospital). We lived in Memphis at the time. Within an hour he was diagnosed. Within an hour, he wasn’t even comprehending what was going on. It went that fast.”

Buchanan now works with the Tennessee Association of School Nurses (TASN) as part of the “Boost Our Rates!” initiative. They are encouraging parents to get their pre-teens and teens vaccinated.

“I just want to encourage everyone to find out the information. Go to VoicesOfMeningitis.org online, and there is tons of information about it. Go to your pediatricians. Don’t take chances.”

A Dyersburg family may soon be adding a new story to the ‘Voices’ collection. On September 10th, Meningitis took the life of their 18-year-old son, Jacob Nunley. He was a Freshman at Middle Tennessee State University.

Teens are five-times more likely to die of the disease than other groups.

TASN’s President Elect, Lisa Nistler, says the best time to get the vaccination is when a child is about 11 or 12. At about 18, they should get a booster dose.

“There are behaviors that kids do during this time of adolescence that puts them at more risk of contracting the disease... They share close quarters, they kiss, they share straws...”

Vaccination rates appear to be improving in Tennessee, but with a public health goal of 80 percent, there’s still work to be done.

Visit VoicesofMeningits.org to learn more.

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