Friends, family of meningitis victim spread infection's seriousn - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Friends, family of meningitis victim spread infection's seriousness

AMERICUS, GA (WALB) - The sudden death of a UGA student, possibly from bacterial meningitis, reminds folks at Georgia Southwestern in Americus about their own experience with the infection.

Evan Bozof was a college sophomore--playing baseball and studying to become a doctor, but a headache in 1998 wound up being the beginning of a battle with a deadly infection.

His jersey serves as a daily reminder of his tragic death nearly 20 years ago. Brian McLain, now the head coach, was an assistant at the time

"Said he wasn't feeling well, had a headache, but it was nothing, anything that would alarm you other than you got a player that's coming down sick," said coach Bryan McLain.

But he wasn't just sick. Hours later, the sophomore pitcher was in the emergency room and things got worse.

"That's kind of when things spiraled from that point. And moved rather quickly," said McLain.

Bozof died 28 days later from bacterial meningitis--a deadly infection that cripples the immune system and is highly contagious.

"Sure it was scary, but at age 20 years old, you think you're invincible and nothing's going to happen to job. But we really didn't know a whole lot about this disease until something happened to Evan and all of us obviously got educated," said Young.

A close friend of Bozof's, Young was determined to educate others and established a scholarship in his memory in 2008.

"The whole purpose of what we've done for Bozof here locally was to create awareness and also honor his memory," said Young.

Bozof's mother started the National Meningitis Association encouraging folks to get vaccinated and learn the seriousness of this infection.

"I promise you, if you see what this disease can do to your children or yourself, I promise you, it will mind change your mind and need to get your kids vaccinated," said Young.

It's a vaccination that could easily save your life.

Young said he and teammates spread Bozof's ashes on the pitcher's mound. The program is currently working on a new banner with his number on it for the outfield fence.

The vaccination is required for any person attending a university system of Georgia school, but health officials encourage everyone to get the vaccine.

Bacterial meningitis can present itself with flu-like symptoms before getting much more serious.

"It's very, very prudent to get the vaccine because the vaccine is there; it works, and it can prevent us from having, from kids from contracting this deadly disease even if they have an exposure," said Jacqueline Jenkins with the Department of Public Health.

UGA officials said the student died from encephalitis and poses no health risk for anyone at the university.

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