Black Parents' Knowledge Of Meningitis Risks

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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The Westside Gazette on Wednesday examined the results of a recent National Foundation for Infectious Diseases survey looking at parents' awareness of risks for meningococcal disease. According to the Gazette, the survey -- of parents with children ages 11 to 21 -- found that while nearly all black parents had heard of meningococcal disease, about 70% were unaware of their child's risk for contracting the disease.

The bacterial infection, which has symptoms similar to that of flu and is difficult to diagnose, can lead to death, brain damage, hearing loss, loss of limbs and other permanent disabilities. Preteens and teenagers have an increased risk for meningitis. It is recommended that children ages 11 to 18, as well as all college-age students who live in dormitories, be vaccinated against the infection.

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The survey found that 28% of black parents reported that their child had received the vaccination. Forty-two percent of parents said they were unaware that the vaccine was available, but after learning about the dangers of the infection and the availability of a vaccine, 66% of parents said they planned to have their child vaccinated.

Susan Rehm, NFID medical director and vice chair of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Cleveland Clinic, said, "The low level of awareness of the dangers of meningococcal disease among the African-American community is troubling because children are unintentionally being left unprotected against this devastating disease." She added, "The majority of cases among preteens and teens are potentially vaccine-preventable, so we encourage parents to take action and talk to their child's health care provider about meningococcal vaccination" (Westside Gazette, 10/29).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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