Public Health England (PHE) has launched a meningitis vaccination programme for students who will be starting at the University this autumn.
The vaccination will offer students protection against meningitis (inflammation of the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning) and protects against four strains of the infection– MenA, MenC, MenW and MenY.
The programme has been developed in response to a rapidly growing increase in cases of MenW, one of the most aggressive and deadly strains.
New students are particularly at risk of meningitis and septicaemia because they mix closely with so many other students, some of whom are unknowingly carrying the bacteria.
Meningitis is comparatively rare, but it is important to be aware of the symptoms and be prepared to take urgent action whenever it is suspected as it can develop suddenly and progress rapidly.
Early symptoms include headache, vomiting, muscle pain, fever, and cold hands and feet. Students should be alert to the signs and symptoms and should not wait for a rash to develop before seeking medical attention urgently. Students are also encouraged to look out for their friends, particularly if they go to their room unwell.
PHE recommend that young people get vaccinated before term starts to ensure immunity but new students can still get the jab from their new GP when they start.
Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation, said:
“We’re encouraging students going to uni for the first time to do something great today. By getting this free meningitis vaccine from your GP you’re not only protecting yourself from a potentially deadly disease, but also protecting others by stopping the spread.
“It’s also vital to watch out for your friends if they’re unwell. If people do have meningitis it can be like a very bad hangover that quickly gets worse. It can be deadly so act fast and get medical help.”
Dr Rosemary McCann, Deputy Director for Health Protection at PHE North West said:
“Since 2009, there has been a rapid increase in cases of Men W across England, with students particularly at risk. Protecting young people from this potentially deadly disease as they embark upon one of the most important periods of their lives is vitally important. The vaccination will save lives and prevent lifelong devastating disability. “