(WRIC) — Meningitis can kill in as little as one day. People may believe they are protected from the disease because they received the vaccine as a child but 8News learned that many people forget to complete one major step.
An investigation from 8News revealed that despite being vaccinated, people may still not be fully protected.
Although rare, Meningitis can develop rapidly, attacking the brain and spinal cord. Teens and young adults are most at risk to develop the disease.
8News learned more than half of the teens in the U.S., 56 percent, are still at risk of contracting the bacterial infection.
A survivor of Meningitis shared his story with 8News in hopes of making people aware and possibly saving a life.
As a teenager, Blake Schuchardt woke up one morning and felt awful.
“I was a senior in highs school,” said Schuchardt. “I originally thought I had the flu.” Detailing his symptoms he experienced to 8News, Schuchardt said he had, “a stiff neck, very high fever.”
The purple spots that started developing all over his body showed Schuchardt that it wasn’t the flu: he had Meningococcal Meningitis.
Schuchardt’s dad rushed him to a hospital after Schuchardt went into a coma.
“I almost lost both legs, both hands, both ears due to amputation,” said Schuchardt. “Fortunately, I only had a few toes amputated.”
Schuchardt had to undergo a kidney transplant but survived. One in 10 people who get the infection die and 19 percent of people suffer permanent injury, including hearing loss or brain damage.
“I just live with a little bit of a pain in my foot,” Schuchardt told 8News.
Dr. Stephanie Crewe, Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, says Meningitis is highly contagious. “Very, very serious it can be certainly life-threatening,” said Dr. Crewe. “Usually at about 16 to 21 is when teenagers are most vulnerable to this particular disease.”
The typical social behaviors for the age group, such as close living quarters, sharing beverages and kissing, could play a part in contracting the disease.
Dr. Crewe explained to 8News that the vaccination is the best defense against Meningitis but it requires two doses: first at age 11 or 12, the second dose at age 16.
“Your immunity to the vaccine will wane after about five years after that first dose,” said Dr. Crewe.
While most children get the first dose, the Centers for Disease Control says the issue is that the majority of teens are missing the critical second dose.
“If you do not get the second dose you will not be adequately protected,” Dr. Crewe said.
Schuchardt told 8News he wishes he had known about the vaccine when he was younger, leading him to get involved in the effort to spread the word. Schuchardt has teamed up with the National Meningitis Association to launch the 16-Vaccine campaign to remind parents about the crucial second dose.
“I was very lucky to catch it early on,” he explained.
The campaign’s website includes vital information about Meningitis and allows people to sign up for vaccination reminders.