Local students being urged to vaccinate against meningitis - WNEM TV 5

Local students being urged to vaccinate against meningitis

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Local high school students are being urged to get vaccinated against a potentially deadly disease. 

Thursday, the Genesee County Health Department held a press conference to warn students and parents about the dangers of meningitis B.  Meningitis is a serious illness caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. It can lead to an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord and can also infect the blood. 

The mother of a victim who passed away from the disease spoke to students about why they should get vaccinated. 

Emily Stillman was 19, living in a dorm at Kalamazoo College. She was doing the seemingly harmless things all college students do, whether it was sharing makeup or a drink with a friend.

Somehow she contracted meningitis B.

"My daughter started with a simple headache. That's all it was, a simple headache," Alicia Stillman said.

Emily walked into a hospital and never walked out.

"By the time I got to the hospital my daughter was already in a coma," Alicia Stillman said.

She never woke up. Within 30 hours of the onset of a simple headache Emily was brain dead.

Since Emily's death in 2013 her mom has dedicated her life to preventing other families from losing a loved one to meningitis.

"Protect your family. Mine is forever changed. My life is not how I ever thought it was going to be. Other people's don't have to be that way," Alicia Stillman said.

Most perplexing to the Stillmans was the fact Emily had been vaccinated for meningitis. At that time they didn't know they needed two vaccines to cover all five types of meningitis, called serogroups.

Through the Emily Stillman Foundation, Alicia Stillman wants all parents to know when to get both vaccines. One protects against strands A, C, W and Y.

"That's given at age 11 to 12 with a booster dose at 16 to 18. Now there's the new series, the meningitis B series," Alicia Stillman said.

The Genesee County Health Department is partnering with Stillman to encourage high school seniors and their parents to get vaccinated for strand B ahead of graduation season.

"This is a vaccine preventable disease, but you need to get the vaccines in order to prevent it," Alicia Stillman said.

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