Meningitis survivor speaks on World Meningitis Day to support vaccinations

Survivors of meningitis shared their experiences on Thursday during World Meningitis Day to help bring awareness to the disease and promote preventative vaccines.

Meningococcal meningitis is caused by a bacterium that affects the brain's lining and spinal cord. Between 800 and 1,500 people are infected in the United States each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 120 people die from meningitis in the U.S. each year.

Symptoms include flu-like fever, vomiting and headache, as well as rash, limb pain and neck stiffness. The disease can cause permanent disability, such as seizure, kidney disease, deafness, brain damage and psychological problems.

Andy Marso shared his experience with combating the disease in 2004. He was a student at the University of Kansas when he suddenly became ill with flu-like symptoms, and within 24 hours was rushed to intensive care and treated for septic shock.

"Despite the medical staff's best efforts, almost all of my fingers and the front half of both of my feet had to be amputated," Marso said. "I retained only my right thumb, and I gradually accepted that my life going forward would be vastly different, and far more challenging."

Marso was able to finish his degree and now works as a reporter for a newspaper in Topeka, Kansas. He has published a book about his experience with the disease.

Marso recently addressed the Missouri Legislature to raise awareness for vaccines available for bacterial meningitis, and testified that college students should be vaccinated.