Certain middle-school students will have an extra item on their to-do list before returning to school in August: Get a meningitis vaccine. A law enacted in 2009 requires that all students receive the meningitis, varicella and Tdap vaccines before their seventh-grade year. The law is the result of efforts by Frankie Milley, who lives in Houston and lost her only son, Ryan, 18, to meningitis in 1998. “He became ill on Father’s Day afternoon with a fever and an earache,” said Milley. “Within 14 hours he had blood coming from every orifice of his body, and he died.” Milley founded Meningitis Angels in the early 2000s as a way to honor her son and educate all on vaccine preventable diseases, especially meningitis. “Meningitis Angels is a 501(c)3 organization founded 2001 in memory of Ryan Wayne Milley,” said Milley. “We work as liaisons in meningitis outbreaks between public health, media and community.” Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, which are the protective membranes that surround the spinal cord and brain. Untreated, meningitis can cause disability, disfigurement or death. There are five types of meningitis: bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic and non-infectous. Bacterial meningitis, which is rare and the most contagious form of meningitis, has the potential to be the most life-threatening. “It is a bacteria that enters the body through the nasal passages,” said Milley. “The bacteria enters the meninges and brain causing deadly meningitis.” Symptoms of bacterial meningitis include nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light, stiffness of the neck and confusion. The symptoms generally appear quickly - about three to seven days after exposure. “Some early signs of the disease are unrelenting fever, leg pain, cold hands and feet and abnormal skin color,” said Milley. “These can develop within 12 hours after infection, long before the more classic signs of the illness such as a rash, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light and impaired consciousness and death.” The best way to prevent meningitis is with the meningitis vaccine. The vaccine generally costs from $100 to $150. Many insurance companies will cover some or all of the cost. Those who are uninsured, under-insured or Medicaid eligible should check with the Texas Vaccines for Children program to see if they qualify for no-cost vaccines. Acceptable forms of proof of vaccination for the student’s school include an immunization record showing the student has been vaccinated, an official record from a previous school or a form from the doctor’s office. The form must include the signature or stamp of a physician and the month, day and year the vaccine was administered. “I promise we will not stop the fight to prevent this deadly disease until it is eradicated,” said Milley. “Our children should not die or suffer in vain.” Currently, Meningitis Angels is having a photo contest for those who get the meningitis vaccine. Children ages 10 to 18 who submit a photo of themselves receiving the shot will have the chance to win an iPad, a digital camera, $100 gift card or a T-shirt. For full details about the contest, visit www.meningitis-angels.org. For more information on the vaccine requirements, visit www.dshs.state.tx.us/immunize . Pictured: The Angels. The top from left are Maggie Siller of Texas, Amanda Moran of Oklahoma, Meningitis Angels founder Frankie Milley, Abby Wold of Florida, Amanda Shirley of Tennessee and Andre’ Lampkin of Texas.

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