Back to Campus: Michigan Parents, Physicians Urge College Students to Get Immunized against Meningitis B

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Back to Campus: Michigan Parents, Physicians Urge College Students to Get Immunized against Meningitis B

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

New Survey of Parents Shows 80 Percent Unaware of Need for Separate Vaccine


The Michigan State Medical Society, the Emily Stillman Foundation, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services today urged young people across Michigan to make sure they’re immunized against Meningitis B before heading to campus this fall.  The move comes after the release of a new survey showing nearly 80 percent of parents are unaware of their adolescent’s need for an additional vaccination.

There are many different groups of meningitis, but the common vaccine only protects against 4 of them. Adolescents are still at risk for the group B strain of meningitis without a second, unique vaccination.  Meningitis B accounts for nearly 50 percent of all meningitis cases in persons 17 to 22 years of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

College students are at particular risk of contracting Meningitis B, because of the communal setting at most colleges and universities.  Meningitis B is spread through saliva, and nose secretions, so sharing a drinking glass, kissing, or any number of other common activities could spread the deadly disease.

A week ago, a 21-year-old Macomb County woman passed away tragically after contracting meningitis.  The victim was a student at Central Michigan University and a Life Time Fitness day camp counselor in Rochester Hills. 

“This week has provided just the latest heartbreaking reminder about how dangerous meningitis is, and just how important one simple act of prevention can be,” said Alicia Stillman, a Farmington Hills resident who lost her own daughter, Emily, to Meningitis B just 3 years ago.  “My daughter Emily left a huge hole in this world, which will forever be a darker place without her light and her laughter.  I urge parents and students to make sure they’re vaccinated against Meningitis B before heading to campus this August.”

The Emily Stillman Foundation was created in 2014 to preserve the memory of Emily Nicole Stillman.  Emily was a 19-year-old sophomore at Kalamazoo College in 2013, when she contracted and lost her life to Meningitis B, the only type of meningitis not included in the common meningitis vaccine given to adolescents across the United States.

“Meningitis is a vaccine-preventable disease,” said Bob Swanson, Director of the Division of Immunization at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “While some adolescents are vaccinated against four types of meningitis, many high school and college aged individuals may not yet be vaccinated against Meningitis B.  We strongly encourage all students to get immunized with all recommended vaccines before they head back to campus this fall.”

According to a recent survey by the Kimberly Coffey Foundation:

  • 81 percent of parents were not aware that there are vaccines to protect against 5 different strains of meningitis;
  • 79 percent of parents did not know that their adolescent is not fully immunized against all 5 types unless they had each of two unique meningococcal vaccinations; and
  • After learning about Meningitis B, 89 percent of parents said that immunization is something they should seek out to protect their child.

“If you or your child is displaying the symptoms of meningitis or believes they may have come in contact with someone who contracted meningitis, it is critical that they see a physician immediately,” said David Walsworth, MD, a family physician in East Lansing, and the Chairman of the MSMS Board of Directors Science and Education Committee. “The most important step parents can take to protect their adolescent from Meningitis B is to contact their physician and ensure he or she is fully vaccinated against the disease, including Group B.”

The symptoms of meningitis can include feeling poor, a fever, nausea and vomiting, a severe and persistent headache, a stiff neck, joint pain, confusion or other mental changes, sensitivity to light, and a red or purple skin rash in which color does not fade when pressure is applied to the skin.  Symptoms can appear quickly or over several days.

The Michigan State Medical Society is a professional association of more than 15,000 Michigan physicians. Its mission is to promote a health care environment which supports physicians in caring for, and enhancing the health of Michigan citizens through science, quality, and ethics in the practice of medicine.  Please visit for more information.

See the news report on WILX TV 10 >>