Minn. mom urges meningitis vaccination as kids head back to school, college

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With the start of school and college just around the corner, a Minnesota mother who lost her daughter to meningitis is urging vaccination to prevent the potentially fatal disease, Fox 9 reports.

Barb Dunn from South St. Paul is teaming with the Minnesota Department of Health to raise students' and parents' awareness of the fast-acting disease. Dunn's daughter, Jenna, died in June 1999 from meningitis while attending the University of St. Thomas. The graduate student, who was studying to become an English literature professor, was 26.

Dunn recalled that she got a call from her daughter: "She said, 'I have a terrible headache, I've been vomiting and I don't know what's wrong, but I've never been this sick.'"

The woman was taken to the hospital by her mother, but died 17 hours later from meningitis.

Fox 9 reports that only 63 percent of youths between the ages of 13-17 were vaccinated for meningitis in 2011, 7 percent below national average of 70 percent.

Dunn is hoping to see an increase in those numbers with her awareness campaign, which is being aided by Gov. Mark Dayton's declaration of August as Meningitis Awareness Month.

Minnesota Department of Health spokesperson Kris Ehresmann told Fox 9 that people at the highest risk for the disease are freshmen living in college dorms.

Close quarters put students at higher risk at coming into contact with the disease, along with kissing, sharing utensils and sharing risks, the station says.

Even though a patient might not exhibit all the symptoms, some warning signs of meningitis include headaches, stiff neck, fever and rash.

The state agency says there are many different types of bacteria and viruses that can also cause the disease, but in most instances they cause ear infections, pneumonia or other illnesses.

Eight cases of meningitis have been reported in the state so far this year. Last year, there were 12 cases in the state.

See Fox 9's report on Barb Dunn's awareness campaign below.

KMSP-TV

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