Tiffany Thornton, star of the Disney Channel's "So Random" is lucky to be alive. At the age of 19 she contracted meningitis, which her doctor initially diagnosed as the flu. After spending 10 days in the hospital fighting for her life, Thornton lived through it and is now educating others along with Linda Davis-Alldritt, President of the National Association of School Nurses, on the dangers of meningitis and how it can be prevented as spokespersons with the Voices of Meningitis campaign.
Actress, Tiffany Thornton star of the Disney Channel's "So Random" and Linda Davis-Alldritt, President of the National Association of School Nurses discuss the dangers of meningitis, how it can be prevented and the Voices of Meningitis campaign.
Candace Rose: Tiffany, you contracted meningitis as a teenager, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Tiffany Thornton: "Yes, I contracted meningitis when I was 19. I felt like I had the flu and then it became a lot more serious and I spent 10 days in the hospital fighting for my life. I was fortunate enough that my mom had heard of meningitis, so she knew that my stiff neck and my very high fever were a little more serious than what I had originally thought. I didn't know anything about meningitis when I got sick, so being a part of the Voices of Meningitis campaign has been a great opportunity for me to help raise awareness about meningitis and the importance of getting vaccinated because the onset of it feels like a flu but within 24 hours it can take your life, you can have long term effects. I think 1 in 5 of every meningitis survivor has a long term effect similar to other people who have had it- like brain damage, amputation of limbs. It's a very serious disease that people need to be aware of and know that there is a vaccination out there that can help prevent this disease."
CR: What would you both say are the most common myths and misconceptions about meningitis?
TT: "Well, I think a lot of times; I know that my doctor originally thought that I just had the flu and sent me home and when I woke up an hour later screaming in pain my mom realized it was getting worse a lot faster than you know it was supposed to have. So I think a lot of times it starts off like a cold and then it kind of becomes a flu and then kind of strep-like feeling and you just; especially when you have a child the Center of Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting your children vaccinated at age 11 and a booster by 18 to prevent the disease of meningitis, so at 11 if your child is sick are they really going to tell you 'my neck is stiff?' That's why it's important to have that open dialogue with your doctor or school nurse about meningitis and we have a website which is VoicesOfMeningitis.org and a facebook page where parents and teens can go to learn more about this disease and the symptoms and be aware of it because it's very easy (I believe) to misdiagnose."
CR: Tiffany, what is the Voices of Meningitis program and how did you become involved with it as its newest spokesperson?
TT: It's a campaign; the Voices of Meningitis campaign. We're just trying to really get people aware of meningitis and how serious it is and how important it is to get vaccinated and it just hits really close to home for me because I've gone through it and I know how scary of a place it was to be in that hospital, have everyone come in with masks on and it's a very, very serious thing that people really need to be more aware of."
CR: Linda, as the President of the National Association of School Nurses, can you tell us about the symptoms of meningitis and why teens are at a higher risk?
Linda Davis-Alldritt: "Yes, of course. The symptoms as Tiffany described are like a common cold but they progress very rapidly and to the more severe symptoms of stiff neck, high fever, vomiting, rash and a few others. The good news is that meningitis is preventable. The vaccine for meningitis has been around for several years, for decades actually and it's safe, it's effective and it prevents this really terrible disease. Again the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all children have the vaccination by age 11 and that they have a booster by age 18 and this protects them during those high risk preteen and teenage years when they maybe engaged on a regular basis in some of the more high risk behaviors like sharing drinking cups, sharing sodas- that type of thing, kissing and then of course being generally in close quarters with each other because this is a infectious disease; it's highly transmissible between people who have the disease and share it with others. So, again we really want to emphasize for parents that they need to talk with their physician, they need to talk with their school nurse. They can check out the website- VoicesOfMenigitis.org for more information or take a look at the facebook page- Raise Your Voice Against Meningitis."
Voices of Meningitis – Image courtesy of VoicesOfMeningitis.org
CR: Linda, how is meningitis treated?
LD: "Well, it can be treated certainly, but by the time it gets to the point where it can be treated often times the disease has settled in so severely that treatment is not necessarily effective. So the best prevention is to have a vaccination against meningitis. Have a meningitis vaccine at the ages specified by the Centers for Disease Control."
CR: Linda, are other age groups or those with pre-existing conditions just as susceptible as teens?
LD: "Absolutely. Anybody can get meningitis, it's just that preteens and the teens tend to be a bit more susceptible because they tend to participate in those high risk behaviors. There is vaccine available for children as young as 9 months old and the vaccine is available also for people as old as 55. So anyone in that age range can get the vaccine and it will be effective."
CR: Tiffany, where can parents, preteens and teens go to learn much more about Voices of Meningitis and the importance of meningitis prevention?
CR: Tiffany, as one of the most popular young actresses in Hollywood today, what projects are you currently working on? Congratulations on your engagement!
TT: "Thank you so much, there's a project for me! I'm getting married in three months, so that's quite the detailed thing and we are wrapping up first season of So Random here in about a month and that's really exciting for all of us. I have a jewelry line and I'm working on my country music career, and then I get to be a part of this amazing campaign- The Voices of Meningitis campaign and raise awareness about that. So, I'm just a little busy and happy to be so."
Tiffany Thornton's Jewelry Line – ShopBesoBeso.com
Love her CANDACE ring!
Candace Ring – ShopBesoBeso.com
CR: Where can we go to find out more about your jewelry line and your country music?
TT: "My country music hopefully will be coming out soon and then my jewelry line has a website, it's ShopBesoBeso.com. People can check out the line there."