21-year-old dies after mistaking meningitis for a hangover

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After a woman died in April when she mistook meningitis for a hangover, her parents are speaking out so the same thing doesn't happen to anyone else.

Jennifer Gray's mother, Edwina, told the Daily Record her daughter's quick and confusing death is the "worst possible thing to happen to someone who has an only child."

On April 16, Jennifer told her mother she felt sick, The Independent reports, but she thought it was just a hangover or a cold after a night out with friends. But her symptoms — a headache, sore joints, and nausea — weren't going away, so Jennifer went to the hospital the next day. At the hospital, the Daily Record reports Jennifer's symptoms progressed rapidly, and she died soon after.

Jennifer was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, which causes swelling of the brain. Many things cause meningitis, but the bacterial form is one of the more serious ones. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were about 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis, including 500 deaths, each year between 2003 and 2007 in the United States. It's spread from person to person, but most of the bacteria that cause the illness aren't quite as contagious as viruses that cause a cold or flu. You have to get pretty close to someone with meningitis to catch it.

Related: Toddler with meningitis

Toddler with meningitis makes recovery
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Toddler with meningitis makes recovery
Photo courtesy: INSIDE EDITION
Photo courtesy: INSIDE EDITION
Photo courtesy: INSIDE EDITION
Photo courtesy: INSIDE EDITION
Photo courtesy: INSIDE EDITION
Photo courtesy: INSIDE EDITION
Photo courtesy: INSIDE EDITION
Photo courtesy: INSIDE EDITION

Symptoms of meningitis come on pretty fast, according to the CDC, and include fever, headache and a stiff neck. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and confusion. It's important to get immediate medical treatment if you think you have been exposed to meningitis and start experiencing these symptoms.

Because young people like her daughter are particularly susceptible to contracting meningitis (living in close quarters like dorms is a way it can spread), Edwina went public with Jennifer's story.

"I was shocked by the condition she was in. She looked horrendous. Within that hour since I last saw her, there was a rapid increase in symptoms," Edwina told the Daily Record. "The hospital said they hadn't seen the illness move as fast as with Jennifer. She came in with vague symptoms and within hours, she was dead."

If you suddenly experience the symptoms described above, it's a good idea to call your doctor. They can tell you whether to get checked out or if you should rest.

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