Meningitis is an infection that causes an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. According to the American College Health Association, the rate of Bacterial Meningitis among college students has nearly doubled since 1991. The CDC recommends that all college bound students get a Meningitis vaccination especially if they are living in dorms. The disease is spread by respiratory droplets and typically, Freshmen live together in small quarters and often share drinks. After high school John Kach turned his attention to college and so he went for a physical to update his vaccinations.
"The two highly recommended shots when John was going off to college was Hepatitis B and a Meningitis shot. When John returned from his physical and getting his papers signed, he said, 'Ma, I got all my shots except this one',"says John's mother Paige Kach.
The one shot John missed would change his life forever. "It was going great. I played on the basketball team, my social life was great, academics was good. Then March 11th of 2000, I wasn't feeling too well. Had a high fever, was throwing up," says John.
Doctors diagnosed him with Bacterial Meningitis, a potentially fatal condition that affects roughly 3,000 Americans each year. "It shut down my kidneys. It shut down all my internal organs except for my heart and brain," John says.
To keep John alive, doctors had to amputate his fingers, toes, and his right leg, below the knee. After six months of therapy, John was ready to return to school. "It was a whole new thing to get back into that lifestyle. I was on my own," says John.
To help spread the word about the dangers of Meningitis on college campuses, his mom joined a new group called moms on Meningitis. "I was naive so if I could help somebody else not to be as naive as I was, because it's worth it. I'm not saying that your child is going to contract it, but why take the chance?" says John's mother.
If your son or daughter leaves for college without that vaccination, they can still go to their school's infirmary or the health department in that community to get the Meningitis vaccine. Overall, the risk if rare, but in cases like John's it is a shot that would have protected him from a lot of heartache.
By the way, the vaccine is not as effective in young children and since the disease seems to show up more in the college age group, that's the age in which the vaccine is recommended.