TOPEKA, Kan., April 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- In the spring of 2004, Andy Marso was preparing to graduate from the University of Kansas with a journalism degree. One night he went to bed early with flu-like symptoms. The next morning he could not walk and there was a strange purple rash on his arms. By that night he was in intensive care, flown by helicopter to the university's medical center in septic shock with his organs failing.
That's how fast meningitis can strike down young and healthy people. Thursday, April 24 is World Meningitis Day and Marso and other survivors want to share the importance of meningitis awareness and inoculations to prevent the disease.
Meningococcal meningitis is caused by a bacterium that can infect the lining of the brain and spinal cord. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in the U.S., an estimated 800 to 1,500 people are infected with meningococcal meningitis and about 120 die from the disease each year. About one of every five survivors lives with permanent disabilities, such as seizures, amputations, kidney disease, deafness, brain damage and psychological problems.
"Despite the medical staff's best efforts, almost all of my fingers and the front half of both of my feet had to be amputated. I retained only my right thumb, and I gradually accepted that my life going forward would be vastly different, and far more challenging," Marso said. Marso, a reporter for the Topeka, Kan. newspaper, is also the author of "Worth the Pain: How Meningitis Nearly Killed Me, Then Changed My Life for the Better." (Published by Kansas City Star Books)
Marso testified recently before the Missouri Legislature that college students living on campus be vaccinated. Vaccines currently approved in the U.S. prevent all but one of the types of bacterial meningitis. A vaccine that prevents the type Marso contracted, meningitis B, was recently granted breakthrough therapy status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"This status will expedite the approval process, bringing us closer to the day when we can eradicate bacterial meningitis," Marso said.
The first symptoms of meningitis are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell. Symptoms more specific to meningitis and less common in milder illnesses include a rash, limb pain, pale skin, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and confusion.
Treatment should start immediately. Most people with meningitis are hospitalized and treated with antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the infection, other treatments may also be necessary.
Experts caution not to share anything that comes in contact with the mouth, including: water bottles, lip balm, toothbrushes, towels, drinking glasses, eating utensils, cosmetics, smoking materials and food or drink from common source.
SOURCE Book Author Andy Marso