Lindsay Jerdo was an 18-year-old with a cat named Socks and a new job at a ski resort when she came down with a headache in December of 2001. She had meningitis, and 36 hours later, she was dead.
Since then, her mother, Deb Jerdo, has worked to push state leaders to add meningitis vaccines to the list of immunizations required for schoolchildren. That effort paid off this week when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the requirement into law.
“Lindsay died from a vaccine-preventable disease,” the Lake Saranac woman said. “By the time we got her to the hospital, the disease had overtaken her. When the doctor diagnosed her, it was really already too late.”
The new law requires 7th- and 12th-graders to be vaccinated against meningitis beginning next year. More than 20 states already require the shot as part of standard immunizations that also vaccines against mumps, measles, polio and other diseases.
About 1,000 Americans get meningitis annually and up to 150 die. Survivors can suffer hearing loss and limb amputation. The infection moves swiftly, with flu-like symptoms and severe headache quickly turning to seizures, skin rashes and death.
“You lose your life, you lose limbs, it’s just such a horrific disease, but we can prevent it,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther.
Vaccine skeptics opposed the bill but got little traction against lobbying by Jerdo and other relatives of victims.
“It’ll be 14 years on Dec. 24,” said Jerdo, now a grandmother. “She was a happy, healthy girl one day and gone in 36 hours.”