If you are like us, you may have heard the word “meningitis”, but were never really aware of what it was, or how deadly it could be. We now know more than we ever wanted to about this disease.  The disease is also known as meningococcal disease.  It is not a simple disease to understand, because it can be caused by several different bacterias or viruses, and can take different paths in the body.

Some statistics about meningitis and meningococcal disease:

There are nearly 3,000 cases every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Between 10-12 percent of the cases are fatal (about 300 to 360). Among those who survive meningococcal disease, approximately 20 percent suffer long-term consequences, such as brain damage, kidney disease, hearing loss or limb amputations.

Causes of Meningitis:

It can have many causes, but is usually caused by a bacterial or a viral infection. Bacterial meningitis is usually more severe than the viral meningitis. Bacterial meningitis can have serious after-effects, such as brain damage, hearing loss, limb amputation, or learning disabilities.

Signs and symptoms of meningitis:

Unfortunately, the initial symptoms can be easily mistaken for the flu. The CDC website lists:  High fever, headache, and stiff neck as common symptoms of meningitis in anyone over the age of 2 years. They say the symptoms can develop over several hours, or they may take 1 to 2 days.
In Jeff’s case, he started feeling sick on Wednesday evening at about 6pm, and by the next evening at 6pm he had passed away.  His initial symptoms were high fever and discomfort.  Unfortunately, what we didn’t know was that the bacteria had entered his blood stream.  This is called meningococcal septicemia.

Other symptoms listed by the CDC include nausea, vomiting, discomfort looking into bright lights, confusion, and sleepiness. As the disease progresses, patients of any age may have seizures.

At the time of Jeff’s death there was a vaccine available, but it was not recommended until a person was entering college.  Since Jeff was 16 when he died, he had not had the vaccine.

Mentra Vaccine:

Since Jeff’s death, a new vaccine has been approved. It’s tradename is Menactra. This vaccine lasts longer than the previous vaccine, and is recommended for children as young as 11 years old. We urge everyone to contact their doctor for more information about this vaccination.

Meningococcal vaccines cannot prevent all types of this disease, but they do protect many people who might become sick if they didn’t get the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that “Menactra is recommended for all children at their routine preadolescent visit (11 to 12 years of age). For those who have never gotten Menactra previously, a dose is recommended at high school entry. Other adolescents who want to decrease their risk of meningococcal disease can also get the vaccine. Other people at increased risk for whom routine vaccination is recommended are college freshmen living in dormitories, microbiologists who are routinely exposed to meningococcal bacteria, U.S. military recruits, anyone who has a damaged spleen or whose spleen has been removed; anyone who has terminal complement component deficiency (an immune system disorder), anyone who is traveling to the countries which have an outbreak of meningococcal disease, and those who might have been exposed to meningitis during an outbreak.”

New Jersey Legislation:

In December 2007, New Jersey passed the Adolescent Meningococcal Vaccination School Mandate, requiring all incoming sixth-grade students to be immunized against meningococcal disease.

With your help, we hope to do our part to continue the fight against this disease so that no one else will have to suffer the way Jeff did.

If you are unable to participate on walk day, but still wish to contribute, you can make a donation (via this website) or via check made out to: Jeff Burd Memorial Fund, 408 Sedgwick Lane, Marlton, NJ 08053.