Mother's Mission: Preventing Death From Rare Bacterial Meningitis

(Photo Credit: Kimberly Coffey Foundation/Facebook)

AMHERST, MA (WBZ-AM) — A UMass Amherst meningitis clinic continues this weekend and into next week after what the Center for Disease Control is calling an outbreak.

Two students were hospitalized with a potentially deadly form of bacterial meningitis. 

One remains in the hospital, and students on the campus have started a GoFundMe fundraising campaign and are also selling maroon wristbands that read: "UMass 4 Johnathan," for one of the students that were hospitalized. 

While the students are rolling up their sleeves to get the vaccination, one mother, who lost her daughter to the rare bacterial infection, is on a mission to get the public informed and get more vaccinated.

Patti Wukovitis daughter, Kimberly Coffey, died at the age of 17 in 2012 from Meningitis B before a vaccine was readily available in the United States.

Coffey was a senior at East Islip, NY High School on Long Island.

Wukovitis, who is a Registered Nurse, established a foundation in her daughter's name to create awareness towards meningococcal disease.  

While many children have been vaccinated for the more common form of meningitis, she believes that the CDC should have a stronger mandate when it comes to vaccinations.

There are two different and separate preventative vaccines:

One is called MenACWY, which prevents the Meningitis forms A, C, W, and Y. According to Wukovitis, most children receive this at age 12 and a booster at age 16.

The other is called, MenB. It is suggested that teens and young adults ages 16 to 23 receive this vaccine. While the CDC has suggested this vaccination, most do not according to Wukovitis.

"I would love for the CDC to give a stronger recommendation. There is a currently a recommendation from the CDC right now, however it is a soft recommendation, meaning that healthcare providers can suggest it to their patients," she said.

According to the CDC, Meningococcal disease is spread from person to person either indirectly or directly by close contact or in a confined shared space for a lengthy period of time.

Wukovitis says students at high schools and colleges are at an increased risk due to their social behaviors such as living in dorms, going to the cafeteria and sharing utensils, sharing a chapstick or a kiss -- as the disease is shared through saliva.

"That age group, because of the behaviors of that age group, and they are not doing anything wrong but because of their behavior, they are at higher risk because of the exchange salvia," she said.

She emphasized that without adding a separate Meningitis B vaccine, those between the age of 16 and 23 they are not fully protected and that students and parents should talk to their doctor to make sure they are fully up-to-date.

Related Links:

UMass Schedules Mass Meningitis Vaccination Program

Center for Disease Control

WBZ NewsRadio1030's Laurie Kirby (@LaurieWBZ) reports.

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