Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada launches new Public Service Announcement to raise awareness about Meningitis in Canada

    - The Portrait draws from personal stories of five mothers devastated by
    meningitis -

    WATERLOO, ON, Feb. 12 /CNW/ - The Meningitis Research Foundation of
Canada (MRFC) announced today the release of a new Public Service Announcement
(PSA), aimed to raise awareness about meningitis and the need for broad
protection against the disease. Entitled The Portrait, the PSA draws from the
personal stories of five mothers whose children have either passed away as a
result of infection, suffered permanent disabilities or miraculously survived.
The five mothers come from across Canada and include: Kathryn Blain, founder
and chair of the MRFC, Waterloo, ON; Katie Grassie, Keswick, ON; Mary Clough,
Muskoka, ON; Elaine Hamlyn, Mount Pearl, NL; and Sherry Webster, Quesnel, BC.
    "Unfortunately, the mothers featured in the PSA, including myself, are
members of a unique group - one that no parent ever wants to be a part of,"
says Kathryn Blain. "After losing my son to meningitis more than 10 years ago,
I started the MRFC to raise awareness and provide support to other parents who
have been affected by this disease. My hope is that this PSA will help educate
Canadians about meningitis and its life-long impact on families, and drive
them to take action to protect themselves."
    The five mothers in the PSA are not alone. There are approximately 300
cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) in Canada each year, with
children under five years, people aged 16 to 24 and those over the age of 55
most commonly affected.
    "Broad protection against meningococcal disease is essential to ensuring
that no family loses a loved one to this terrible disease," says Dr. Ron Gold,
senior medical advisor, MRFC. "Advances in the area of meningitis vaccines
mean that children and adolescents can now be protected against all four
vaccine-preventable strains of the disease."
    The Portrait will air on television stations across Canada in both
English and French.

    Cast of The Portrait

    Kathryn Blain, Waterloo, ON

    In 1995, Kathryn Blain lost her son Michael to meningitis. After his
death, she realized how little information was available about the disease,
and as a tribute to him, she founded the MRFC.

    Katie Grassie, Keswick, ON

    Katie Grassie's son Keaton was fortunate to survive meningitis. After
receiving the devastating news that the flu-like symptoms that Keaton had
experienced earlier in the day were in fact symptoms of meningitis, the
Grassie family thought that their then nine year-old son might die. While
Keaton survived the disease, both of his lower legs had to be amputated.
Today, Keaton is able to walk again thanks to prosthetics.

    Mary Clough, Muskoka, ON

    In February 2005, Mary Clough lost her 19 year-old daughter Mackenzie
(Macey) to meningitis while she was attending college. Less than 24 hours
after initially experiencing the flu-like symptoms commonly associated with
meningitis infection, MacKenzie passed away.

    Elaine Hamlyn, Mount Pearl, NL

    Elaine Hamlyn's daughter Lacey is very fortunate to be alive today after
experiencing an almost life-threatening case of meningitis more than one year
ago. For several days Lacey fought the infection in hospital, and miraculously
survived. Because Elaine saw first-hand how devastating the disease can be,
she is now the MRFC regional coordinator for Newfoundland.

    Sherry Webster, Quesnel, BC

    When Sherry Webster's son Matthew passed away in 2000 at the age of 16
due to meningitis, he left behind not only his parents, but four brothers and
one sister. Matthew is sorely missed by his immediate and large extended
family. Sherry is the MRFC regional coordinator for British Columbia.

    About Meningitis

    Meningococcal disease or meningitis is a rare, but serious infection
caused by inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord.
Approximately 10 per cent of individuals who contract the disease will die. Of
those who survive, up to one in five suffer permanent disabilities such as
hearing loss, neurological damage and limb amputation. Meningitis spreads
through close contact, with the bacteria being transmitted through coughing or
sneezing, sharing personal items, such as eating utensils, kissing and close
physical contact.

    About the Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada

    The Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada (MRFC) was established in
1998 after a mother suddenly lost her otherwise healthy son to the disease.
The mission of the foundation is to prevent death and disability from
meningitis and other infections of the central nervous system. Through
education the MRFC provides support to patients and their families affected by
meningitis; increases public awareness of meningitis; and promotes better
understanding of the disease among healthcare professionals. The MRFC also
provides funds for research into improved diagnosis, treatment, and prevention
of meningitis.
    For more information about meningitis or the MRFC, please visit:

For further information:

For further information: To set up an interview with any member of the
cast of The Portrait or to speak with a representative from the MRFC, please
contact: Jeanelle Frampton, MS&L, (416) 847-1306

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Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada

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