Be prepared, safe when returning to campus

Posted at 1:08 PM, Jul 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-22 13:47:26-04

After a 21-year-old Macomb County woman passed away after contracting meningitis, health organizations across Michigan are urging young people to ensure they are immunized against Meningitis B before heading back to campus this fall.

“This week has provided just the latest heartbreaking reminder about how dangerous meningitis is, and just how important one simple act of prevention can be,” Alicia Stillman, a Farmington Hills resident who lost her own daughter, Emily, to Meningitis B just 3 years ago said in a statement.  “My daughter Emily left a huge hole in this world, which will forever be a darker place without her light and her laughter.  I urge parents and students to make sure they’re vaccinated against Meningitis B before heading to campus this August.”

Stillman’s daughter, Emily, was a 19-year-old sophomore at Kalamazoo College in 2013 when she contracted and lost her life to Meningitis B. Meningitis B is the only type of meningitis not included in the common vaccine given to adolescents across the U.S, according to a press release from the Michigan State Medical Society.

According to a survey by the Kimberly Coffey Foundation, 81-percent of parents were not aware that there are vaccines to protect against five different strains of meningitis; 79-percent did not know that their adolescent is not fully immunized against all five types unless they had each of two unique meningococcal vaccinations; and after learning about Meningitis B, 89-percent said that immunization is something they should look into to protect their children.

“Meningitis is a vaccine-preventable disease,” Bob Swanson, Director of the Division of Immunization at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said in the release.  “While some adolescents are vaccinated against four types of meningitis, many high school and college aged individuals may not yet be vaccinated against Meningitis B.  We strongly encourage all students to get immunized with all recommended vaccines before they head back to campus this fall.”

The symptoms of meningitis can include feeling poor, a fever, nausea and vomiting, a severe and persistent headache, a stiff neck, joint pain, confusion or other mental changes, sensitivity to light, and a red or purple skin rash in which color does not fade when pressure is applied to the skin.  Symptoms can appear quickly or over several days.

“If you or your child is displaying the symptoms of meningitis or believes they may have come in contact with someone who contracted meningitis, it is critical that they see a physician immediately,” said David Walsworth, MD, a family physician in East Lansing, and the Chairman of the MSMS Board of Directors Science and Education Committee. “The most important step parents can take to protect their adolescent from Meningitis B is to contact their physician and ensure he or she is fully vaccinated against the disease, including Group B.”