LONDON, April 22, 2016 /CNW/ - An international survey conducted by GSK and released for World Meningitis Day shows gaps in the knowledge parents feel they have about meningococcal disease and its potential consequences. Almost 7 in 10 parents said they don't know enough about the different strains of meningococcal disease and the potential damage they can cause. On average, more than half of parents were either unsure or unaware that there are different types of bacteria that cause the disease.
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The survey of 5,000 parents in Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy and Portugal also shows that out of a list of 14 vaccine-preventable diseases, meningococcal disease is considered by many parents to pose a top three health risk to their children. Fifty-seven percent listed meningococcal disease among the top three health conditions they considered of greatest risk to children followed by Hepatitis B at 34 percent, pneumococcal disease at 27 percent, polio at 25 percent, tetanus at 20 percent and pertussis at 17 percent.
A sudden, potentially life-threatening illness, meningococcal disease kills on average one person every eight minutes worldwide. It typically manifests as bacterial meningitis - an infection of the membrane around the brain and spine; or bacteraemia - a bloodstream infection. The disease progresses rapidly and it can lead to death within 24-48 hours of the first symptoms; up to 1 in 10 of those infected may die.
Since it is impossible to know who will be affected by meningococcal disease, the most effective way to help prevent and control it is through the use of vaccines. Even though five out of the six main types of meningococcal disease are vaccine-preventable, more than half of parents were unaware of which meningococcal vaccines are included in their country's immunisation schedule. More than a third of parents believe that others, such as health care practitioners (HCP) or the government, should take the most responsibility for ensuring children are up to date with vaccinations.
"Meningococcal disease is hard to recognize in the early stages, making it even more critical for parents to know the signs and symptoms," said Chris Head, president of the global Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO). "The findings of this survey support the need to better educate parents about the different types of the disease and ways to prevent their children from getting it."
Takeaways from the survey by country
The results were fairly consistent across parents in the five countries included in the survey but a few statistics stood out:
- Out of a list of 14 vaccine-preventable diseases, meningococcal disease was selected as posing a top three health risk to their children, by 72 percent of parents in Portugal and 68 percent of parents in Italy
- Seventy-two percent of parents in Canada said they didn't know enough about the different strains of meningococcal disease and the damage it can cause
- Approximately one-third of parents in Canada, Germany and Portugal said they didn't know or were unsure about the most common way for children to catch meningococcal disease
- In Brazil, 60 percent of parents said they would prefer to get information about vaccines that protect against meningitis from public awareness campaigns or the media, while in all other markets health care providers were the preferred primary source of information
Parents want to know more
The majority of those surveyed (nearly nine in ten) felt they should be made aware of vaccinations that are not part of their routine immunisation schedule and would be willing to discuss these with their HCPs. Nine in 10 parents felt that their healthcare providers should inform them of all vaccines available for preventable diseases.
"Even though meningococcal disease is rare, the consequences of meningococcal disease for those affected, their families and the healthcare system are significant," said Thomas Breuer, GSK Vaccines chief medical officer. "The best defense against an aggressive disease that leaves little time for intervention is vaccination."
Survey marks GSK launch of "Win for Meningitis"
The survey findings mark the launch of GSK's new disease awareness initiative, "Win for Meningitis," to help parents learn more about all types of meningococcal disease and the steps that can be taken to protect their children from the potentially devastating consequences.
As part of this programme, Paralympic athletes who have survived meningococcal disease have joined forces with world renowned photographer and global advocate for children, Anne Geddes, who has spent her career working on causes related to improving the health of children, including vaccination. Using her unique style of visual story-telling, Geddes will photograph Paralympians with healthy newborns as a positive representation of the effort to protect children from meningitis. Win for Meningitis is also being supported by the global Confederation of Meningitis Organisations.
Note to editors:
About the survey
The Win for Meningitis survey was conducted by Ipsos MORI and commissioned by GSK. It was carried out in February and March 2016 via an online survey of parents, with a sample of 5,000 respondents, from five countries across three continents: Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy and Portugal.
In each country 1,000 parents were surveyed. The criteria for inclusion were that potential respondents must have at least one child aged four years or under and be involved in decisions concerning their children's health, for example, which childhood vaccinations they will receive/ have received. Mothers and fathers were included in the survey in the ratio 2:1 and a minimum of 150 parents per country had to have a child six months and under.
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- International Meningitis Parent Survey (Brazil, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Canada), Ipsos MORI on behalf of GSK. 5 February - 4 March, 2016. (Data on file).
- Naghavi M, et al. (2013). Global, regional, and national age-sex specific all-cause and cause-specific mortality for 240 causes of death, 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. The Lancet, 385, pp.117-171.
- World Health Organization. (2012). Meningococcal Meningitis Factsheet N°141. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs141/en/ . Accessed April 2016.
- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Chapter 8: Meningococcal Disease. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt08-mening.pdf . Accessed April 2016.
- European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). (2014). Annual Epidemiological Report-Vaccine-preventable diseases-invasive bacterial diseases 2014. Available at: http://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications/Publications/AER-VPDIBD-2014.pdf . Accessed April 2016.
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