College-aged students need to be aware of bacterial meningitis

Gina Thompson hadn’t heard of bacterial meningitis when her daughter was found dead in a basement bedroom almost 10 years ago.

When Brandi Thompson died, it was a mystery to her family and first responders. Later police and investigators realized she had contracted bacterial meningitis.

Since the Thompson family lost their 21-year old daughter to the disease they have urged people to be vaccinated.

Utah Department of Health statistics indicate 19 people have contracted bacterial meningitis since 2012. Seven died from the disease.

Lisa Perkins, Immunization Program Manager at Bear River Health, said the disease is an infection of the brain and spinal cord and is spread from person to person and can be deadly if it’s not caught early.

The high risk age group is between 16 and 23. “We see it a lot in college students because they’re living in close spaces and they’re sharing food and drinks. It can be spread by coughing, kissing, sharing drinks or lip gloss.”

Perkins said the symptoms of meningitis can mirror other conditions as well and that makes early intervention critical.

“Sometimes, even if it is detected early, it still can leave some victims with life long problems.

“For the 2015-16 school year the meningitis vaccine became a requirement for entering 7th grade. Also, an additional recommendation was made in 2016 for the youth to receive a booster dose at the age of 16.”

Utah is one of 12 states that doesn’t require it for college students.

Utah health officials say the vaccine is available at local health departments and doctor’s offices.

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