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health & wellness
College students should guard
against bacterial meningitis.
Special to the Jewish News
mily Stillman of West
Bloomfield, a funny, sassy
sophomore at Kalamazoo
College, died Feb. 3 of this year of
No one knows how Emily con-
tracted the illness, and none of her
roommates displayed symptoms.
"When we sent our daughter off
to college, we gave her our parental
advice regarding drinking, drugs
and safe sex," Alicia Stillman, her
mother, says. "We never told her to
be aware of meningitis?'
Alicia and Michael Stillman
believe parents should add that last
piece of information to their advice
list for their children, especially
those going off to college.
"In some small way, Alicia and I
want to make a difference," Michael
Stillman says. "We also want parents
and health care professionals and
college-age children themselves to be
more aware of the flu-like symptoms
and the headache?'
"We're concerned that children
aren't getting vaccinations," Alicia
says. "Emily was vaccinated, but she
died from a bacterial strain that is
not covered by the vaccination in the
U.S. It is covered in the European
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68 July 25 • 2013
Symptoms of meningococcal dis-
ease are usually a sudden fever,
headache and stiff neck. It often
begins as if a person had the flu
because it also can cause nausea,
vomiting, sensitivity to light, a
rash and confusion.
"In the U.S. three meningococ-
cal vaccines are available that can
prevent four types of meningococ-
cal disease," Gordon says. "This
represents about 70 percent of the
cases in this country.
"Viral meningitis occurs more
often than bacterial meningitis and
it is milder," he says. "It usually
happens in the late summer and
early fall. Symptoms usually disap-
pear within two weeks.
vaccines. We've been told it will take
at least five more years before it
becomes available here. It could have
saved our daughter's life?'
Dr. James Gordon, M.D., chief
of infectious disease at Huron
Valley-Sinai Hospital in Commerce
Township, says, "Children need to be
protected from bacterial meningitis
with the meningococcal vaccine
at age 11 or 12. They should then
receive a booster at age 16-18, or
before they go to college. These are
the most recent guidelines from the
Centers for Disease Control (CDC)"
Meningococcal disease is a leading
cause of bacterial meningitis in teens
and young adults. It is the danger-
ous inflammation of the lining of the
brain and spinal cord that usually
results from these bacteria.
Gordon acknowledges that the
routine vaccination and booster may
not be 100 percent effective, but says
they have a relatively high efficacy
(80-90 percent) of preventing the
majority of strains of the disease.
"When MCV4 (meningococcal
conjugate vaccine) was first used to
vaccinate 11- to 12-year-olds, the
expectation was that it offered pro-
tection for 10 years" Gordon says.
"Now it's known that may not be the
case, and a booster dose at age 16-17
"You can't tell if you have bac-
terial or viral meningitis by how
you feel. Your physician examines
and tests you to determine the
type. Antibiotics are not used for
viral meningitis, but are used to
treat bacterial meningitis."
According to Gordon, one of
the best steps to prevent men-
ingitis is to wash your hands.
Careful hand-washing is impor-
tant to avoid exposure to infec-
tious agents in general. Another
good habit is to use good hygiene
by not sharing drinks, straws,
lipsticks or toothbrushes. He
also advises covering your mouth
when you need to cough or
sneeze, and keeping your immune
system up by getting enough rest
and eating well.