Parent of college student who died of meningitis urges vaccine

By Abbie-Lauren Meredith, News Editor –

Alicia Stillman, the mother of Emily Stillman, is raising awareness about the dangerous illness Meningitis

Type B after the passing of her daughter in 2013.

Emily Stillman
Emily Stillman

Emily was 19 and a sophomore at Kalamazoo College when she contracted the deadly disease. On a

Thursday night in January 2013, Emily called her mom and complained of a terrible migraine.

She pushed off symptoms as signs of stress due to her involvement in a school play and her studies. Later

that night she had her friend take her into the hospital because the headache worsened and was unlike anything she

had ever felt.

At the hospital she was treated for a migraine. It wasn’t until her mood changed that she was tested for

Men. B.

Within thirty-six hours she was brain dead.

At the time of Emily’s death, there was no vaccine. Now there is, and Emily’s mother is encouraging

colleges to inform students about the dangers of Men. B for those who have not had the vaccine.

“The environment that college students are puts them at a greater risk. The Meningitis Type B vaccination

is not included in the shots that students get when they are younger,” she said.

At any given time, approximately 10 to 20 percent of the population carries the Men. B bacteria in the back

of their throats and noses.

The disease is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids in the throat and nose. This is easily done in

social settings where college students gather.

They face a bigger risk than most other populations because they often live closely to one another, have

weaker immune systems due to stress and lack of sleep, and are not informed about the potential danger of the


The symptoms of Men. Type B are: feeling poorly, fever, nausea/vomiting, a severe and persistent

headache, a stiff neck, sensitivity to bright light, drowsiness, joint pain, confusion or other mental changes, and a

red/purple skin rash in which color does not fade when pressure is applied to skin.

The symptoms of Men. B when first appearing mimic the flu very closely and often make diagnosis hard at


Stillman is asking college students to find out what their college’s vaccination policy is so that they can

protect themselves and others.

“Meningitis Type B is a serious illness and it can take a life so quickly,” Stillman said. “People who

survive can come out with amputations, blindness, scarring, brain damage and so much more.”

In battling Men. B, the most important things are: education, prevention, and vaccination.

Students can protect themselves by knowing the risks, living a healthy and hygienic lifestyle, and getting

the preventative vaccination.

The vaccination is offered by two companies; Pfiser makes Trumenda and GSK makes Bexsero.

Stillman and her husband Michael have organized the Emily Stillman Foundation to raise awareness of

Men. B. For more information, visit their website at


Featured Image: Alicia Stillman has been fighting to raise awareness about Meningitis B since her daughter Emily, a student at Kalamazoo College, died in 2013 from the disease.

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