NYC Department of Health Reports Six New Meningitis Cases

Three people die of meningitis; doctors recommend virus and prevention measures.

ByABC News
January 20, 2011, 5:31 PM

Jan. 21, 2011— -- On a Friday night in October 1999, Michigan State sophomore Adam Busuttil felt a cold coming on, so he decided to leave his friends and get back to his dorm early and get some rest before the Saturday Michigan State football game, where he played in the marching band.

But the next morning, Busuttil felt worse, and decided to stay home from the game.

By the afternoon, Busuttil had passed out in the shower, hitting his arm and head during the fall.

And by Saturday night, Busuttil was rushed to the emergency room; his fever had spiked, his blood pressure dropped to 50 over 15 and his feet and fingers had turned black from sepsis, a poisoning of the blood that is often triggered in bacterial meningitis patients.

After being diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, Busuttil's doctors amputated portions of seven of his fingers, his big toe and parts of his other toes on his left foot.

Busuttil also suffered from brain damage that left him relearning how to perform daily tasks.

"I had to learn how to tie my shoe, open a door, write," said Busuttil, who is now a 30-year-old elementary school music teacher. "It was pretty intense."

Busuttil returned to Michigan State the following year, where he rejoined the marching band and earned his degree.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, and is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Viral meningitis tends to be less severe than bacterial.

Bacterial can cause brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities and even death, sometimes in a matter of hours.

According to the National Meningitis Association, about 1,500 Americans were diagnosed with meningitis each year between 1998 and 2007, and 11 percent died of the illness.

Among those who survived, about 20 percent suffer from long-term side effects, including brain damage, kidney disease, hearing loss or limb amputations.