Meningitis: A shot could help save your life

January 12, 2007

Albany - - There's a suspected case of meningitis in Dougherty County, renewing concerns about protecting ourselves from this often fatal infection. Bacterial meningitis is highly contagious and is especially a threat to teens and who come in close contact with each other.

Nine years ago, a Georgia Southwestern student succumbed to the infection and his mother has launched a crusade to protect others.

The reason bacterial meningitis can be a problem is because often, people don't realize they have it until it's too late.  It's an all too familiar story for Lynn Bozof. Her son, Evan, at the time a student at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, died from bacterial meningitis in 1998.

"He spent many weeks at Phoebe Putney in Albany. By the time Evan was diagnosed with this disease and it was too late to save his life."

Bozof is spreading the word about the impact of this deadly disease. It targets college students living in dormitories.

Ashley Lee was one of them.

"I was a freshman living in a dorm and I had vomiting, nausea, headaches, stiff neck."

Common flu symptoms she didn't know would lead to her left leg having to be amputated along with some of her fingers and scars over her body.

"If the doctor recognizes it or you get to the doctor soon enough and get the medicine early enough, the majority of the people actually do well and survive the meningitis without too much trouble."

Infectious disease Doctor Craig Smith says it's a problem that shows up in the winter-time. Bacterial meningitis is spread through sneezing and coughing. The National Meningitis Association says a new and improved vaccine can protect a person up to 8 years.

"They've now turbo charged the vaccine by adding a protein to it so that it works much better and protects people much better and longer."

Bozof found out much too late.

"The disease wasn't even anything on my mind. I didn't know that it was potentially vaccine preventable. If I had known, my son would've been vaccinated and he'd be alive today."

She lives to re-tell the story so that it doesn't happen to you.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends routine shots for children aged 11 to 12 years old, 15 years old, and college freshmen living in dorms.

Dr. Smith says depending where you go, the shot can cost between $75 to $100 dollars.  3,000 Americans a year contract it, 12 percent of them die.