No More Meningitis

29 09 2016

Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKIDs) announces the launch of its national educational campaign, “No More Meningitis.”

The campaign warns parents that meningitis is a rare but deadly infection that can kill within hours. If a person is lucky, it lingers, taking a leg or a kidney but leaving them with their life.

Taking the steps to prevent infection is a must for families.

Anyone can become infected, but it’s most common in babies under the age of one, and in teens and young adults between the ages of 16 and 21.

The outbreaks of meningitis at university campuses are a reminder that there are vaccines to fight multiple strains, but they’re not being fully utilized.

Meningitis can be a swift and vicious infection, but each year, only about half of teens get immunized against this disease.


“As parents, we need to make sure our babies and our teens and young adults get the protection they deserve. Our older kids are at greater risk of becoming infected with bacterial meningitis when living in close quarters with large groups of people, such as youth campers, dorm residents, or military barrack inhabitants,” said Trish Parnell, director of PKIDs.

Also at risk are individuals whose immune systems are compromised, travelers to regions where meningococcal disease is common, and people exposed to others who are currently infected and infectious.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 600-1,000 Americans get meningitis every year. Of those infected, 10-15 percent will die. Even if the disease is quickly diagnosed and treated, 11-19 percent of survivors will experience life-changing consequences, such as loss of hearing or limbs, strokes, or seizures.

Because meningitis initially mimics flu symptoms, it can be hard to diagnose it in time to save a life.

The viruses and bacteria that cause meningitis can spread in many ways, including through a kiss or a cough, a sneeze or a sip on a shared straw.

The campaign stresses these simple ways to avoid infection:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Keep your hands off of your nose, mouth, and eyes.
  • Don’t share items like food, forks, lipstick—anything that can transfer germs from another person’s mouth to your own.
  • Get immunized. There are several germs that cause meningitis, and there are several vaccines offering protection. Ask your provider which vaccines are appropriate for your age and immunization history.
  • Keep your immune system strong by doing these things—exercise, eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes to avoid spreading infections that you may have.

“Too many parents, including me, have lost children to this disease,” stated Lynn Bozof, President of the National Meningitis Association. “I don’t know how my son contracted the disease, but my guess is that someone, who was a carrier, coughed or sneezed on him. It’s as simple as that. Common-sense precautions, and most importantly, vaccination, are a necessity.”

PKIDs’ “No More Meningitis” campaign reaches out through social media platforms and a website,, to educate the public on meningitis and how to prevent infection.

Through the use of videos, posters, and fresh informative materials, the public’s questions about meningitis are answered with clarity, and the need to use immunization as a strong tool to prevent infection is made clear.

“The mission of PKIDs is to educate the public about effective disease prevention practices,” said Parnell. “With the ‘No More Meningitis’ campaign, PKIDs hopes to prevent the spread of meningitis and protect our children, no matter their age.”

Please visit our site and use the images and other materials to encourage your community to immunize against meningitis.

NFID Shares New Meningitis PSA

16 06 2016

NFID has a new PSA that we love.

There are lots of things in life that we may regret, but protecting ourselves against meningitis isn’t one of them. Get immunized against the various strains of meningitis — your life is precious.

Share the video, save a life!

Immunize Your Kids Against Meningitis B

8 06 2016

abby FB5 fall

Immunizing Against Meningitis B

12 05 2016

I have two children—one is in high school and the other is in college.

It’s time for the older one to leave her pediatrician and connect with an adult doctor. But before waving goodbye to her childhood medical home, I asked her pediatrician to immunize both girls against meningitis B.

Meningitis (meningococcal disease) can be caused by any one of several germs, or fungi, or even cancer.

Mening B Immunization

We can’t easily prevent all cases of meningitis, but there are vaccines to stop infections from certain germs.

We have good vaccines that protect against several strains of bacterial meningitis, but until recently, we didn’t have any approved vaccines to protect against meningitis B.

This strain has caused outbreaks at colleges around the country because the young people aren’t protected.

In the US, we now have approved vaccines for use against meningitis B. They require two or three doses, depending on which one you use.

Because the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) doesn’t yet recommend that all young people be immunized against meningitis B, the girls’ pediatrician doesn’t stock the vaccine in her office.

When I told her I wanted the girls protected, she ordered it and we received a call from her office after a few days, telling us it was in.

I also checked with my insurance company to make sure they would cover the cost of the vaccine, and they said yes. That was a relief! The price to fully vaccinate both girls would be a hit to my pocketbook.

After vaccination, the girls complained of sore arms for a couple of days, and we go back in a few weeks for a second shot, but I have to say, it’s a load off of my mind and I’ll be happy when they’re fully protected.

We’re lucky that insurance covers the vaccine, and that we have insurance.

It’s worth a call to your older child’s healthcare provider to see if he or she has received the meningitis B vaccine. If not, please get your child protected against this rare and awful disease. You know the old saying: Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.




By Trish Parnell


No More Meningitis

24 04 2015

Abby says keep feet T

We don’t really need to say more.

What Is Meningitis, Anyway?

27 01 2015

At PKIDs, we help families affected by infectious diseases, and we work to educate ourselves and others about these diseases. Our goal is to prevent infections.

In 2015, we’re turning the spotlight on meningitis, or more accurately, meningococcal disease.

Meningitis is scary—and confusing. For instance, if I say that I have meningitis, it sounds like I’m saying I’m infected with a No More Meningitisgerm called meningitis. But, there is no germ called “meningitis.”

Adding to the confusion is the fact that we tend to use that term loosely for what should be called “meningococcal disease.”

Meningococcal disease causes meningitis, and it may also cause blood poisoning (septicemia).


Our brains and spinal cords are protected by three layers of tissues, one on top of the other, along with a thin river of fluid that runs between the middle and bottom layers. That river, the cerebrospinal fluid, helps the tissues cushion the brain and spinal cord. It also brings in food and takes out trash from the brain.

These tissues that protect our brains and spinal cords are called membranes, or meninges. The whole setup reminds me of a hand in a baseball glove; the hand and wrist are the brain and spinal cord, and the layers of the glove are the meninges.

When I say that I have meningitis, I’m saying my meninges, those tissues layered over my brain and spinal cord, are swollen or inflamed.

This swelling usually causes symptoms that are typical and a tip-off that a person is suffering from meningitis. Those symptoms include fever, a stiff neck, and a severe headache.

There are other symptoms that may be happening, but those three are the most common.

Lots of things can cause meningitis, and they’re not all germs. But the cause of most concern is bacteria.

When certain bacteria, such as Neisseria meningitidis, cause meningitis, it’s called bacterial meningitis.

The bacteria can get into the bloodstream, cross the blood-brain barrier, and cause meningitis, as described above. They get into the river, the cerebrospinal fluid, and multiply like crazy, spitting out poison. The tissues react to the poison by becoming swollen and inflamed. If it gets bad enough, the swelling may cause seizures, or even brain damage.


When bacteria such as Neisseria meningitidis get into the bloodstream, they can cause septicemia, or blood poisoning.

The poison released by the bacteria into the bloodstream makes the immune system wake up and start fighting. This war between the bacteria and the immune system can cause inflammation, or sepsis, which in turn can cause blood clots, and it may stop oxygen from getting to the organs. If this happens, the infected person may lose limbs, organs, and sometimes, his or her life. This can happen within hours of initial infection.


The bacteria that cause meningitis, and possibly septicemia, can spread in many ways, including through a kiss or a cough, a sneeze or a sip on a shared straw.

To avoid infection, we do the same things we do when we’re trying to avoid influenza.

  • Wash our hands.
  • Keep our hands off of our nose, mouth, and eyes.
  • Don’t share items like food, forks, lipstick—anything that can transfer germs from another person’s mouth to our own.
  • Get immunized. There are several germs that cause meningococcal disease, and luckily, there are several vaccines to protect us. Ask your provider which vaccines are appropriate for your age and immunization history.
  • Keep our immune system strong by doing all those things we hear about: exercise, eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep.
  • Be responsible and cover our coughs and sneezes. We don’t want to spread infections that we may have.

There are certain groups that are at greater risk of becoming infected with meningococcal disease: those living in close quarters with large groups of people, such as youth campers, dorm residents, or military barrack inhabitants; individuals whose immune systems are compromised; travelers to regions where meningococcal disease is common; or people exposed to others who are currently infected and infectious.

The harm that can come from this infection is so great, it’s simply not worth the risk. We all need to get ourselves and our loved ones in to see our provider for vaccination against this truly horrible disease.

by Trish Parnell

Meningitis B Vaccine – Who Gets It?

19 01 2015

My whole life is on the Outlook calendar. Birthdays, meetings, to-do lists, reminders—when anything pops up, it goes on the calendar. Doesn’t matter if it’s four days or four years from now, it gets noted.

In a few months, my younger daughter will be 16. If you sat at my computer and clicked to that day, you’d find two things: 1) Bug’s birthday and, 2) Call to get mening booster for Bug. (Don’t tell her I called her Bug in this blog, but that is what you’d read in my calendar. It stands for Love Bug.)

Meningitis, or more accurately, meningococcal disease, is the real version of the monster under the bed. That’s how scared I am of this disease.

Love Bug - the early years.

Love Bug – the early years.

It’s not as common as flu, but when it strikes, it can kill or do horrendous damage to the body within hours of the first symptom appearing.

In the US, we have vaccines we use against several strains of the disease.

In the fall of 2014, the FDA approved a vaccine against serogroup B, a strain not found in our current vaccines. There’s at least one other vaccine against serogroup B that’s waiting for approval from the FDA, and I’m guessing that approval won’t be long in coming.

Because we haven’t had a vaccine against serogroup B, we’ve left our at-risk populations defenseless. When Princeton and Santa Barbara had their meningitis outbreaks in 2013, the culprit was serogroup B.

But, the good news is that the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) will now take a look at the vaccine that protects against meningitis serogroup B and decide what recommendations it will make. The ACIP exists to make “recommendations on how to use vaccines to control diseases in the United States.”

It could be that the ACIP will decide to recommend that all young people ages 10 to 25 should be vaccinated. Or, they may recommend that the vaccine only be given in the event of an outbreak.

The CDC has a specific definition of outbreak when it comes to meningitis, and that is: An outbreak occurs when there are multiple cases in a community or institution over a short period of time. Specifically, an outbreak is defined as three or more cases of the same serogroup (“strain”) occurring within three months. Sometimes having just two cases in a school or college can meet the outbreak definition.

For a more precise definition, check out this Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on the Evaluation and Management of Suspected Outbreaks of Meningococcal Disease.

My personal feeling is that we’re a country that can afford to protect ourselves against vaccine-preventable diseases and we should take advantage of that fact. Why wait until an outbreak to start vaccinating? Let’s get the at-risk populations vaccinated and not worry about an outbreak.

I suspect that as discussions ensue, the cost of vaccinating pre-outbreak will be a major factor in determining what the official recommendations will be. After all, the federal government does have a budget. Maybe a few more zeroes in their budget compared to yours or mine, but still.

I know that other interests are clamoring for their share of the pot. Alzheimer’s research, foodborne illness, alcohol poisoning—everyone deserves some of the health and medical dollars available. As do those with other interests, such as agriculture, space exploration, or marine biology.

But still.

Preventing meningococcal disease has always made more sense to me than hoping treatment works and burying those for whom it does not.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. We will share them with ACIP members as they meet to discuss what recommendations to make for the new vaccines.



by Trish Parnell