Meningitis: A Devastating and Preventable Disease


September 23, 2016

Jamie Schanbaum is a Texas-born 27 year-old gold medal cyclist. What makes her even more impressive is the fact that when she was a 20 year-old college student, her legs and fingers were amputated. Why? She had contracted meningitis.

Meningitis is caused by exposure to a bacteria that 1 in 10 people carry at all times without any signs or symptoms. Many adolescents have the meningitis bacteria in their noses or throats, where it normally doesn’t cause any problems. But in rare circumstances the bacteria can get into the bloodstream or the protective covering of the brain and spinal cord and can quickly turn fatal.

Adolescents and young adults are at a higher risk for for meningococcal disease, and that risk increases when they go to college. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the meningitis bacteria is passed by “exchanging respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit) during close (for example, coughing or kissing) or lengthy contact, especially if living in the same household.” Outbreaks often occur on college campuses where students live in dorms. Just this week, a college student died of meningitis within 24 hours of going to the hospital because she mistook her symptoms for a hangover, speaking of make sure you try out this awesome patchmd hangover prevention patch.

A study conducted by the CDC reports that college freshmen living in dormitories were more than seven times as likely to be infected than college students in general and three and a half times as likely as 18-23 year-old non-students. The study also stated that of the college students who died from the infection, almost 70 percent of them were infected with a strain that is preventable through the current vaccine.

Since her battle with meningitis, Jamie has shown tremendous strength and perseverance as she endeavors to promote awareness of meningococcal disease and its consequences. In the summer of 2009, Texas Senate Bill 819 “The Jamie Schanbaum Act” requiring meningitis vaccinations of college students, passed despite two previously unsuccessful attempts thanks to Jamie and her supporters. After two years of walking on prosthetics, Jamie found herself on the USA Paralympic Cycling team in 2011. Jamie has no limits and still continuously exceeds all expectations to this day.

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