Canton Repository

June 13, 2001

Voinovich sponsors meningitis bill

By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent 

WASHINGTON — Two weeks after an outbreak of meningitis killed two West Branch students and sickened a Marlington senior, Sen. George Voinovich has co-sponsored a bill to promote the dissemination of information about the disease and a vaccine that protects against it.

Voinovich, R-Cleveland, is the only co-sponsor so far of the Meningitis Immunization Awareness Act introduced earlier this week by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. Hutchison’s office had been working on the legislation for several months and asked Voinovich to sign on after the outbreak of the bacterial disease in the Alliance area.

“It was a stark reminder of how deadly this disease is and how important it is to understand how it can be prevented,” said Scott Milburn, spokesman for Voinovich.

Meningitis can kill as well as cause mental retardation, hearing loss and loss of limbs.

The proposal would instruct the Department of Health and Human Services to work with the Centers for Disease Control to develop a program to provide the information to child-care centers, schools, universities, summer camps boarding schools, prisons and detention facilities.

“This will allow parents and others to be more informed about this dangerous disease and encourage them to obtain appropriate vaccines,” Hutchison said when she introduced the bill.

The meningitis outbreak led to the vaccination of almost 6,000 students and teachers at six area high schools. The vaccinations were paid for by the state and cost nearly $400,000.

A Dallas woman, whose son attended a boarding school in Pennsylvania and died from meningitis three years ago, asked Hutchinson to help educate parents about the disease. A meningitis outbreak also occurred in Houston earlier this year.