TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would require the Departments of Health and Senior Services and Education to provide information to parents of students in grades 6-12 about meningococcal meningitis was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today.
“Our best weapon against the spread and survival of meningitis is information,” said Senator Vitale. “If caught early, bacterial meningitis can be effectively treated by antibiotics, but it’s important that parents are educated to be able to spot the symptoms of the disease before it progresses to fatal levels. Also, parents should know that proper vaccination all but ensures that students will not catch this potentially deadly disease.”
The bill, S-1461, would direct the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services to develop an educational fact-sheet on meningococcal meningitis. Beginning with the start of the 2006 school year, the Commissioner of Education would be required to distribute the fact-sheet to parents and guardians of students in grades 6 through 12, and would be required to distribute to parents of grade 6 students at the beginning of the 2007 school year. The fact-sheet would contain information about the disease, including causes, symptoms and the means of transmission of meningitis, the availability, effectiveness and risks of the meningitis vaccine, and where additional information can be obtained.
“According to the CDC (federal Centers for Disease Control), meningitis becomes even deadlier with age,” said Senator Vitale. “For children between 10 and 17 years old, the disease carried a 12 % mortality rate, but that increases to 14 % for kids between 14 and 24. By letting parents know the facts about meningitis, they can do everything in their power to ensure that their kids are protected from the disease.”
Senator Vitale noted that the CDC recently recommended that adolescents receive vaccination at 11 or 12 years old, or before they enter high school.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.