World Meningitis Day
Sunday 24 April
New Survey Reveals Parents Unaware of Dangers of Pneumococcal Disease
Results from a new 13 country survey reveal that almost three quarters of Australian parents surveyed have no knowledge of pneumococcal disease.1 In addition, 61 per cent of parents are unaware of the life-threatening diseases associated with pneumococcal disease such as meningitis.1 Pneumococcal disease poses a serious risk to infants and young children worldwide.2
Pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of meningitis, septicaemia, pneumonia, and otitis media in children.2 To coincide with World Meningitis Day (Sunday 24 April 2011), the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO) is educating Australians about the devastating effects of meningitis and seeking to encourage prevention through vaccination.
Bruce Langoulant, CoMO President, and Chairman of The Meningitis Centre said: “Of all infectious diseases, perhaps none grips parents with more fear than bacteria-causing meningitis. Sadly, those most affected by meningitis are often infants and children.”
“When it strikes, the disease has potentially devastating consequences for patients and families. Meningitis can kill in less than 24 hours3 or lead to permanent disabilities such as brain damage. World Meningitis Day is about helping Australian parents understand what they can do to avoid this debilitating disease by being aware of the signs and symptoms and the vaccines available to prevent the disease.”
Meningitis is an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.4 Despite the potential seriousness of the disease, the Survey indicates that 78 per cent of Australian parents do not feel their children are at risk of pneumococcal disease1 highlighting the need for parents to be better informed about the impact and potential risks for infants and children.
Professor Robert Booy, Infectious Disease Specialist, University of Sydney and Children’s Hospital Westmead, says pneumococcal disease is responsible for around 11 per cent of all deaths in children aged 1-59 months worldwide.5
“It can leave infants and young children with disabilities like cerebral palsy, epilepsy, deafness and an inability to walk or talk,” Prof Booy said.
“However the good news that we want all parents to hear is that pneumococcal disease is largely preventable through vaccination. It is the most common vaccine-preventable cause of death worldwide in children less than five years of age.”
Today, certain strains (or serotypes) of pneumococcal disease, such as 19A, are seen more frequently in Australian infants.6
“Pneumococcal disease is a serious yet preventable childhood disease and we hope parents will take immediate steps to ensure their children are protected,” said Prof Booy. “It is very important that parents are informed about the risk associated with pneumococcal disease, as well as the options that are available to them to help prevent it.”
For more information on World Meningitis Day, information for parents on the signs and symptoms of meningitis and support available visit The Meningitis Centre - www.meningitis.com.au
1. Childhood Health Survey. GfK HealthCare. 2010.
2. World Health Organization. Weekly epidemiological record. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for childhood immunisation – WHO position paper. 2007; 82: 93–104.
3. Meningitis Symptom Card - http://mening2public.powercreations.com.au/images/mening2-48--haush.pdf
4. The Meningitis Centre - http://www.meningitis.com.au/about_meningitis/about_the_diseases.phtml
5. O’Brien et al. Lancet 2009; 374: 893–902
6. Williams S, Mernagh P, Lee M, et al. Changing epidemiology of invasive pneumococcal disease in Australian children after introduction of a 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. MJA 2011;194:116-120
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumococcal Disease. CDC Pink Book. 2009;15:217-230.