Karen's Story

Information provided by Aventis Pasteur Inc. 2004

In January, Karen (an 18-year-old college freshman) woke up and thought she was getting the flu. As the day went on, she felt worse and worse. By the time she arrived in the emergency room that evening, she had experienced several seizures and was going into shock. Meningococci (the bacteria that cause meningitis) had caused severe swelling of Karen’s brain, and gangrene, which was rapidly spreading to her arms and legs. Despite appropriate antibiotics, to save Karen’s life, doctors had to amputate two of her limbs. And as a result of the swelling of her brain, Karen suffers from a loss of hearing and requires anticonvulsant medication to control her seizures. *Karen represents a hypothetical college student.

Meningitis Facts

Meningitis is a bacterial infection that causes swelling of the brain and spinal cord. Someone may carry the bacteria without any signs or symptoms, but could still infect others through sneezing, coughing or sharing drinking glasses. Meningitis is very difficult to diagnose and treat making prevention the best option,

Signs and Symptoms

Early signs and symptoms are often mistaken for the flu or other respiratory infections. Meningitis can kill a healthy, young adult in 48 hours. One out of five people who contract bacterial meningitis will die. One out of the five who do survive will suffer permanent disabilities such as amputation, severe scarring, brain damage or hearing loss.

Dormitory Students at Greater Risk

The Center for Disease control reports that college freshman living in dormitories have a six-times greater chance of contracting bacterial meningitis. Fortunately, up to 83% of meningococcal disease in college students is caused by strains of bacteria that are potentially vaccine-preventable.

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