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Published On: Mon, Feb 4th, 2013

Kalamazoo College student, Emily Stillman dies from meningococcal meningitis

A Kalamazoo College sophomore  died Sunday at a local hospital due to complications associated with bacterial meningitis, according to a college news release Feb.3.

Kalamazoo County Michigan  Image/David Benbennick

Kalamazoo County Michigan Image/David Benbennick

The student is identified as 19-year-old  Emily Stillman  from West Bloomfield. She lived at Crissey Residence Hall on campus.

According to reports, Emily was taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital early Friday after feeling unwell and died Sunday with her family by her side.

Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Director, Linda Vail told The Global Dispatch via email that the student had meningococcal meningitis, a very severe form of bacterial meningitis. Further testing is being performed to type the strain. Vail also noted that Emily had been vaccinated against meningococcal meningitis.

County health officials are working closely with school officials to identify and give prophylactic antibiotics to those who had close contact with Emily.

“We started reaching out to roommates and classmates on Friday,  not only to inform them,  but to make sure they got  medication in case they’ve been exposed,” said Kalamazoo College Spokesman Jeff Palmer, according to a Fox 17 report.

The college noted that The Student Health Center has extended its hours to reach out to students to provide prophylactic antibiotic treatment, discuss symptoms of the illness, and discuss vaccination recommendations. (More information on bacterial meningitis is available from the Kalamazoo County epidemiology on-call line: 269–207–5783.) Counseling Center staff members have also been available to students.

Meningococcal meningitis is caused by the bacterium, Neisseria meningitidis, which causes the most severe form of bacterial meningitis. Meningitis is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It can also be found in the bloodstream. This particular type of meningitis is very severe and can result in death if not treated promptly. Even in cases where treatment has been given, the fatality rate is around 15%.

The symptoms of bacterial meningitis are sudden, with fever, stiff neck, body aches and headaches. As the disease progresses other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, photophobia and seizures. A petechial rash seen on the trunk and lower extremities, bleeding complications, multi-organ failures and shock are usually final signs. This disease has the ability to kill within hours of getting it.

Up to 10-20% of older children and young adults carry this organism in the mouth and nose, though the carriage rate will vary with age and closeness of population. The majority of people that carry this bacterium have no clinical disease. The organism is spread person to person through respiratory secretions from the nose and mouth (coughing, sneezing and kissing). Experts are unsure why some people advance to meningitis disease while many do not.

Crowded living conditions facilitate the spread of the organism and places like military barracks and college dormitories are well documented areas of concern with this disease.

If you have close contact with someone with meningococcal meningitis, see your doctor for prophylactic antibiotics.

Meningococcal meningitis is a devastating disease with epidemic potential. This disease is considered a medical emergency and if you have the classic symptoms see your health care professional. It can be treated with antibiotics, but without delay.

Emily’s funeral is scheduled for 10 AM Tuesday morning, February 5, at the Dorfman Chapel in Farmington Hills.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He regularly writes about infectious disease news for Examiner.com and administers the Outbreak News section of The Global Dispatch.

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  1. [...] the past weekend, a Kalamazoo College in Michigan student died from complications from meningococcal [...]

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