-- The CDC reports that food allergies result in more than 300,000 ambulatory care visits a year among children under the age of 18.
-- Food allergens account for 30 percent of fatal cases of anaphylaxis.
-- Anaphylaxis results in approximately 1,500 deaths annually.
Schools nationwide have made efforts to reduce exposure to allergens -- a critical first step in managing the risk of life-threatening allergic reactions. And every state allows students who have been prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector to bring their auto-injector to school. Unfortunately, 24 percent of anaphylactic reactions occur in undiagnosed children. The new West Virginia law closes that gap by making epinephrine immediately available to all children as a first-line treatment for anaphylaxis.
Sixteen other states passed similar laws this year. Fourteen states had previously enacted laws, three following the death of a child in school. Fortunately, it did not take such a tragedy to spur Mountain State lawmakers to action.
Under the new law, schools can stock epinephrine auto-injectors for use in response to an anaphylactic emergency. School nurses and other trained personnel are authorized to administer epinephrine auto-injectors to any student who they believe is experiencing an anaphylactic reaction, and the law provides civil liability protection for those acting in good faith.
Morgantown-based Mylan created a program to provide four free epinephrine auto-injectors per school year to public and private kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools in the U.S. More than 20,000 schools have already taken advantage of this program in other states.
Most importantly, West Virginia schools are now prepared to quickly and decisively address incidents of anaphylaxis, so that emergencies don't turn into tragedies.
Stevens is president of Government Relations Specialists, a consulting company specializing in health advocacy and is an advisor to Mylan.