CDC: 45 percent of WV teenagers not vaccinated against meningit - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

CDC: 45 percent of WV teenagers not vaccinated against meningitis in 2011

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Some startling statistics have been released about a deadly disease that can kill your child within 24 hours.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 45 percent of West Virginia teens were not vaccinated against meningitis in 2011.

Health officials are hopeful those statistics will change thanks to new state-wide immunization laws that went into affect earlier this year.

Both seventh and twelfth graders now have to get a host of shots before they can step foot inside of a classroom.

Melanie Kerns, school nurse for Putnam County Schools, said meningitis vaccination numbers need to be a lot higher than they are.

"Statistically that's significant. We would like to see obviously higher immunizations for meningitis," she said.

Kerns said 'Voices of Meningitis', a meningococcal meningitis disease prevention campaign, is working with the West Virginia Association of School Nurses to raise even more awareness.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said parents have responded positively to the new laws.

"There's been a great uptake and an up-tick in the uptake over the last few months because of the new law going into effect, which is actually a very important health intervention we can make because the disease is so deadly," he said.

Kerns said bacterial meningitis is easily spread amongst teenagers.

"We really want to protect our teens because they're the most at-risk group. They're the ones going to overnight camps, sports things, sharing drinks unfortunately, and eating after one another; all of those things can spread the disease," she said.

Gupta says victims can die within 24 hours.

"This is one of those aggressive diseases with meningococcal meningitis. The child can get very sick very quick. It's one of those diseases that doesn't prolong over a week or two. It happens within hours," he said.

Gupta said 2012 vaccination numbers should be much higher due to the new laws and public awareness.

To learn more about 'Voices of Meningitis', click here.