Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NBA Legend Bob Lanier and Atlanta Dream Forward Angel McCoughtry Join Vaccines for Teens Educational Campaign to Urge Local Teens to Get Vaccinated

/PRNewswire/ -- Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Lanier along with Atlanta Dream forward and Vaccines for Teens spokesperson Angel McCoughtry teamed up with NBA Cares and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) to bring Vaccines for Teens to the Atlanta community. Vaccines for Teens is a national awareness campaign designed to educate teens and their parents about the importance of vaccination against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases.

To tip off the campaign locally, Lanier and McCoughtry appeared at Drew Charter School in Atlanta, Georgia to urge parents of preteens and teens to discuss adolescent vaccinations with their family physicians.

Teens are at risk for influenza, including seasonal strains and the pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus, as well as other serious infectious diseases such as meningococcal disease (including meningitis) and whooping cough (pertussis). The basketball superstars and local community leaders agree that because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other leading medical groups recommend vaccination for preteens and teens against influenza, meningococcal disease, whooping cough and human papillomavirus (HPV), it is now more important than ever to help protect preteens and teens in the Atlanta area from potentially life-threatening complications of these diseases.

"Vaccination can help teens grow into healthy adults, and is beneficial for the students at Drew Charter School and for teens throughout the Atlanta area," said McCoughtry. "In basketball, the best offense is a good defense, and the same holds true for protecting teen health."

Adolescent Immunization is More Important than Ever in Atlanta

Although the CDC and other leading medical groups recommend vaccination against influenza, meningococcal disease and whooping cough immunization rates for all three diseases among preteens and teens remain alarmingly low in Georgia, where fewer than half of teens between 13 and 17 years of age have been vaccinated against meningococcal disease and whooping cough.

Adolescent immunization in Georgia is a very important community health issue. Between 26,897 and 107,591 Atlanta residents suffer from influenza annually, yet immunization rates fall short each year. When parents get ready to send their children back to school in the fall, they should also prepare to have their families immunized against influenza as soon as vaccine is available. It's never too early to begin thinking about the flu.

Meningococcal disease and whooping cough affect people in the Atlanta area every year. In 2008, 18 cases of meningococcal disease were reported in Georgia, including three deaths. Parents also need to know meningococcal disease can spread from person to person through common summer activities, such as sharing water bottles or eating utensils and living in close quarters at camp.

In addition, cases of whooping cough have increased in DeKalb County over the past several years.

"With teens in such close contact in classrooms and on school sports teams, these infectious diseases can spread easily from student to student," said Yolanda Wimberly, M.D., Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. "Vaccination is a safe and effective way to help teens stay protected, yet immunization rates remain low among adolescents."

Teens and their parents can learn more about risk factors for getting sick with vaccine-preventable diseases, and the benefits of vaccination, by visiting www.vaccinesforteens.net.

About Vaccine-preventable Adolescent Diseases

Immunization is critically important for adolescents because they are at risk for serious and potentially life-threatening diseases.

Influenza

Influenza is a viral infection that can become serious enough to keep teens home from school, sports and other activities. It can sometimes result in a visit to the hospital or lead to serious complications like pneumonia or even death. Vaccination is the best protection against the spread of the influenza virus. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated against influenza each year. Vaccination begins as soon as vaccine becomes available, usually in August, and continues into spring or as long as the influenza virus is in circulation. In most seasons, influenza virus activity peaks in February or March, so vaccination throughout the entire influenza season is beneficial and recommended.

Meningococcal Disease / Meningococcal Meningitis

Although rare, meningococcal disease, including meningitis, is a serious, life-threatening infection that moves quickly and can lead to death within 24 to 48 hours of first symptoms. Early symptoms may be similar to influenza, making it difficult for health-care providers to diagnose. The CDC recommends that all preteens and teens 11 through 18 years of age be vaccinated against meningococcal disease at the earliest possible health-care visit - ideally, during the routine 11- or 12-year-old check-up.

Pertussis, Commonly Called "Whooping Cough"

Pertussis is one of the most common respiratory diseases in American teens and adults. It causes a prolonged cough that can last weeks or months and can result in pneumonia or hospitalization. Teens and adults can spread pertussis to younger children, who can develop a life-threatening pertussis infection. The CDC recommends a single booster dose of Tdap vaccine for people 11 through 64 years of age; immunity to the whooping cough vaccine decreases over time, so teens who don't receive a booster vaccine may become vulnerable to this disease.

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