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Meningitis Survivor Urges Students to Lobby for a Vaccine Against the Deadly Disease

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Nov. 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- "To protect their students and staff, colleges across the country should seek access to the vaccine being shipped to Princeton University," was meningitis B survivor Andy Marso's message to students and faculty at the University of Maryland's campus Wednesday.

"In 2004 I was a normal college student who went to bed thinking I had the flu. By the next morning I couldn't get out of bed and by the next afternoon I was in critical condition, being airlifted from a hospital near the University of Kansas to a medical center in Kansas City, Kansas," he said. Marso has chronicled that struggle in his new book, "Worth the Pain: How Meningitis Nearly Killed Me - Then Changed My Life for the Better," published by Kansas City Star Books.

Marso spent more than four months in the hospital in 2004, eventually having all his toes amputated and nearly all of his fingers because of the bacterial meningitis.  Now a reporter covering state government for the Topeka Capital-Journal, he has learned to adjust to typing with his two thumbs and walking with carbon fiber leg braces.

Marso's bacterial meningitis is rare, but college students in group living arrangements are six times more likely to get it than the general population.

"I had never heard of meningitis B, so I didn't have any awareness of what a college student like me could do to avoid it," Marso said.

In 2004 there were vaccines that covered other types of meningitis, but not serogroup B. A new meningitis B vaccine was approved this year in Europe and Australia. The Food and Drug Administration is allowing Princeton to import it and offer it to students and staff on an emergency basis to quell a meningitis B outbreak there that has hit seven people.

"If it is safe for use at Princeton, then why is not available for thousands of other students on college campuses across the country?" Marso asked, noting that there may be meningitis B carriers on other campuses even if there's not an active outbreak. "I understand the FDA has protocols to follow, but every day we go without this shot puts people needlessly at risk for a disease that kills and maims."

Marso is a 2011 graduate of the University of Maryland's master's in journalism program and worked on the Washington Post's sports desk while attending the school.


SOURCE Kansas City Star Books
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