Protecting against bacterial meningitis


Web Editor - Amanda Roberts
Reporter - Johnette Worak

Other than a flu shot, we don't often think about getting vaccinated as adults, but there are a lot of new vaccines you probably need to consider.

For instance, anyone who's ever had chicken pox is at risk of getting shingles. Shingles is hat's when chicken pox virus reactivates and causes a painful rash over the body.

The zoster vaccine, FDA approved in 2006 can help prevent that.

Also developed in 2006- a vaccine which prevents women from getting cervical cancer. To be most effective, the HPV vaccine should be given before a woman becomes sexually active.

The pneumonia vaccine can protect you from getting the dangerous lung infection for as long as ten years. The CDC recommends everyone over the age of 65 get one.

And for those going off to college, there's a shot that prevents bacterial meningitis which seems to target college freshmen living in dorms. Bacterial Meningitis can be deadly and crippling for young people.

The Meningitis vaccine is 85 percent effective in preventing bacterial meningitis. Three in ten US teens have not received the meningitis vaccine. Among those who survive getting the disease, one in five have permanent disabilities such as brain damage, hearing loss, loss of kidney function or amputation.

Blake Schuchardt works as a registered nurse at a dialysis clinic in Paducah. He shows dialysis patients how to use a machine that allows them to clean their blood at home.

It's an easy way for him to connect with the patients because he was once on dialysis himself for four hours a day, every other day, "hours a week just sitting in a chair."

Blake is the picture of health now and no longer on dialysis because he got a kidney transplant. But the dialysis, the transplant, neither would have been necessary if he'd done one thing before he started college.

If only he'd gotten a shot to protect himself against bacterial meningitis, "it starts with nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck."

When Blake was first hospitalized with meningitis, he thought he had the flu. But within hours purple sores started forming over his body, and his kidneys started shutting down, "that was the main thing when all was said and done. My kidneys shut down and I lost 3 tips of my middle toes on the left foot as a result."

Blake now works with the National Meningitis Association to spread the word about the meningitis vaccine which was developed ten years ago, but which a lot of people still don't know about, "you can go to the National Meningitis website and they have a list of the symptoms and why the vaccine is important."

Meanwhile, there's a push for states to mandate the vaccine. In our region, the state of Illinois began mandating the meningitis vaccine for all 12th graders at the first of the year; Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri laws mandate only that parents and students are told it's available.

As for Blake, he wants you to know his story goes beyond just surviving, it has a very happy ending: he's married to his highschool sweetheart and they have a new baby girl.