Preventing Bacterial Meningitis

When it comes to bacterial meningitis, every second counts. Learn the symptoms and the importance of getting vaccinated.

After participating in a strenuous three-day hike at summer camp, Nick Springer, then 14, came down with what he thought was a bad case of the flu. The following morning, Nick collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. Over the next 16 hours, his symptoms worsened, with a splotchy purple rash developing on his abdomen. He was soon diagnosed with meningococcal disease, a deadly bacterial infection in which membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord become inflamed. Nick’s kidneys and liver failed, and his lungs collapsed. Nick was given only a 10 percent chance of surviving through the night, and his last rites were read to him at his hospital bedside. Despite his grim prognosis, Nick clung to life, but he fell into a coma.

Two months later, Nick awoke from his comatose state and discovered that his lower legs and lower arms had been amputated. Nine months after the ordeal began, Nick was finally able to return home.

Meningitis typically is caused by bacterial, viral or occasionally fungal infections. Meningococcal disease is a relatively rare type of bacterial meningitis, but it can lead to death very quickly. Adolescents and young adults are at a greater risk for bacterial meningitis, accounting for 15 percent of all cases. One out of seven people who contract meningococcal disease will die. Communal settings, such as dormitories or summer camps, can be a risk factor. Receiving a vaccination between ages 11 and 13 and a booster between ages 16 and 18 is the most effective way to prevent bacterial meningitis.

“I was amazed to find out that all of this was vaccine preventable,” Nick says.

Symptoms of Meningitis:
• Sudden high fever
• Severe headache
• Nausea or vomiting
• Confusion
• Fatigue
• Sensitivity to light
• Pinpoint and/or splotchy rash
• Extreme stiffness in the neck

Nick, now 27, refuses to let his experience with meningitis stop him from pursuing his goals. He competed in two Paralympic Games, helping the U.S. wheelchair rugby team capture a gold medal in Beijing and a bronze in London. Nick continues to work closely with Voices of Meningitis, a prevention campaign created by the National Association of School Nurses, as well as the National Meningitis Association to urge parents to get their children vaccinated.

For more information on meningitis prevention, visit


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