- Associated Press - Sunday, December 25, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah family that lost a 21-year-old daughter to bacterial meningitis is urging people to be vaccinated against the potentially deadly disease.

Gina Thompson said she hadn’t heard of the disease or its vaccine when her daughter was found dead in a basement bedroom in 2007. Brandi Thompson’s death was initially a mystery to her family and first responders, and only later did police and investigators realize the cosmetology student had contracted bacterial meningitis.

The disease, an infection of the brain and spinal cord, is spread from person to person and can be deadly if it’s not caught early. When it’s caught early, people who recover can suffer permanent disabilities like hearing loss or brain damage.

Gina Thompson said her daughter thought she had the flu and brushed it off, but soon her nausea and headaches became so severe she received a prescription for migraines from her doctor.

If the family had known about the disease or the vaccine, they believe Brandi Thompson would still be alive.

“We’re trying to get the word out to everyone,” her mother said.

In Utah, 19 people have had bacterial meningitis since 2012, according to the state Department of Health. Of those 19, seven died from the disease.

The CDC recommends children 11 to 12 and teenagers between 16 and 18 receive the vaccine.

Last year, Utah began requiring the vaccine for 7th graders but it’s one of 12 states that doesn’t require it for college students.

Rich Lakin with Utah’s Health Department said the vaccine is available at local health departments and doctor’s offices, and it could be helpful for university students, who are more likely to live in close spaces like dormitories and share food and drinks.

Only one of the state’s 10 largest colleges requires students to have the vaccine - Westminster College in Salt Lake City requires it for those living in student housing, according to The Salt Lake Tribune (https://bit.ly/2hWXZW3 ).

After Brandi Thompson’s death, her grandmother Janet Thompson ensured all her other grandchildren received the vaccine.

“Maybe it isn’t such a large-spread disease and you think, ‘It won’t happen to me,’” she said. “But it could.”


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, https://www.sltrib.com

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