Athens Meningitis Awareness Week

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ATHENS, Ala. – An Athens family is mourning the loss of their daughter who passed away twelve years ago.

The passing comes after their daughter was diagnosed with meningitis months after her 15th birthday.

Now the family is working to bring awareness to the sometimes-deadly disease.

Jessica Elkins was only 15 years old when she passed away. The year was 2007, and Elkins was heading into high school. A member of the cheerleading team, Elkins was your typical teenage girl.

“She had not been sick when she went to school or had not complained about anything, and they diagnosed her with the flu.”

Jessica Elkins came home from school on Friday, after taking her final exams before Christmas break, when she began to feel sick. Her symptoms included nausea, vomitting, and weak muscles. After being diagnosed with the flu, she was prescribed Tamiflu. Elkins made it through the night, but her symptoms never got better so her mother called the doctor back.

“We called the doctor back and we met them back at the hospital. They ran some tests and that’s when we realized it was definitely meningitis we were dealing with. On Friday she got sick and was med-flighted on Saturday. By Wednesday she was gone,” said Jessica’s mother, Michelle Elkins.

Now the Elkins family is doing everything they can to bring awareness to the disease.

“Emily, her older sister, had gotten the vaccine and we were on schedule for Jessica’s which had been moved to February for certain reasons. It’s hard for us to say that getting that vaccine a little earlier could’ve saved her life,” Michelle said.

The city of Athens has even jumped on board in support by proclaiming September 23rd, Jessica’s birthday, as Meningitis Awareness Day.

“I met last week with Michelle, Talbot and the siblings and just trying to keep not only the memory which will never go away, but awareness that young people can fight this by getting vaccinated.”

Bacterial Meningitis Signs and Symptoms – CDC
Meningitis symptoms include sudden onset of

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck

There are often other symptoms, such as

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Photophobia (eyes being more sensitive to light)
  • Altered mental status (confusion)

Newborns and babies may not have or it may be difficult to notice the classic symptoms listed above. Instead, babies may

  • Be slow or inactive
  • Be irritable
  • Vomit
  • Feed poorly

In young babies, doctors may also look for a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on infant’s head) or abnormal reflexes. If you think your baby or child has any of these symptoms, call the doctor right away.

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within 3 to 7 days after exposure.

Later symptoms of bacterial meningitis can be very serious (e.g., seizures, coma). For this reason, anyone who thinks they may have meningitis should see a doctor as soon as possible.

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