The Farmington Hills-based Emily Stillman Foundation has joined the Michigan State Medical Society and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in urging young people to make sure they’re immunized against Meningitis B before heading to campus this fall.
The reminder comes after the recent death of a 21-year-old Macomb County woman who contracted meningitis. She was a student at Central Michigan University and a LifeTime Fitness day camp counselor in Rochester Hills. In addition, a new survey shows nearly 80 percent of parents are unaware of their adolescent’s need for an additional vaccination.
Kristy Malter’s death “has provided just the latest heartbreaking reminder about how dangerous meningitis is, and just how important one simple act of prevention can be,” said Alicia Stillman, a Farmington Hills resident who lost her own daughter to Meningitis B three years ago. “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.”
Emily Stillman was a 19-year-old sophomore at Kalamazoo College in 2013, when she contracted, and lost her life to Meningitis B, the only type of meningitis not included in the common meningitis vaccine given to adolescents across the United States.
Meningitis B accounts for nearly 50 percent of all meningitis cases in persons 17 to 22 years of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In a press release, the Foundation noted that college students are at particular risk of contracting Meningitis B, because of the communal setting at most colleges and universities. Meningitis B is spread through saliva, and nose secretions, so sharing a drinking glass, kissing, or any number of other common activities could spread the deadly disease.
“Meningitis is a vaccine-preventable disease,” said Bob Swanson, Director of the Division of Immunization at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “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.”
“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.”
The symptoms of meningitis can include feeling poorly, 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.