Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood on December 13, 2011


Keyserling, Harry, MD., Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. National Meningitis Association.

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Video Transcript

: Music

Kayla St. Pierre: I was so close to death. It was very scary.

: Music

Narrator: Kayla St. Pierre was only 10 years old when she lost her fingers and both legs to a potentially deadly bacteria known as meningococcus.

Narrator: Nick Springer was exposed at summer camp when he was 14 years old.

Nancy Ford Springer: He had to have both his hands amputated and both his legs amputated. We sent him away with sunblock. We put his name in all his clothing. We made sure that we did everything right. The one thing we didn't do is we did not get him vaccinated against meningococcal disease. We didn't know there was a vaccine available to save him.

: So make the best of this test and don't ask why...

Narrator: Still, Nick and Kayla were lucky. They lived. Evan Bozof didn't. The bacteria infected his blood so badly that even amputation was not enough to save him.

Lynn Bozof: It's just horrible to see. It's one of the few diseases that can really take a healthy person and kill them within hours. Watching our son die, watching his legs, hands, arms turn black. We didn't know what else to do. We would watch the numbers on all the machines hooked up to him. Your mind can't absorb that this is your child, so sick, and you can't do anything. It's...

Narrator: Today, through videos like this, all three families fight to focus national attention on the meningococcal germ. It's more common than you might think.

Harry Keyserling, MD: Maybe up to 15 percent of the population, particularly the young, adolescent population, carries the bacteria in their nose or throat. And it doesn't necessarily cause a problem for that individual, but when they have contact with close friends, they have the potential of transmitting the bacteria to these nearby acquaintances.

Narrator: It's important to teach youth how to prevent the spread of the bacteria.

Nancy Ford Springer: Such as not sharing water bottles, not sharing lip gloss, soda cans, cigarettes.

: Deep breath...

Narrator: It's even more important to have your child vaccinated. Unfortunately, today's vaccines only cover 4 of the 5 strains of meningococcal bacteria. So even after a vaccination, experts stress knowing the disease's early warning signs. When it attacks the tissues, or meninges, of the brain and spinal cord it's called meningitis.

Nancy Ford Springer: The child may be vomiting, may have a headache, may have high fever, may have a stiff neck, but might not have all of these symptoms. That's the worry about this disease—it can present itself as the flu and many times goes unrecognized until it's too late.

Kayla St. Pierre : Meningococcal meningitis took away my legs, my fingers, my kidneys. I was so close to death. Sometimes when I look at my body I just feel very self-conscious, like I'm not like the other kids around me. But I try to stay strong and not make a big deal out of it because at least I'm alive.

Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Sandee LaMotte.