Students urged to get meningitis vaccine

Public Health England is urging young people starting university or college this Autumn to get a vaccine against meningitis.

Students are understood to be of high risk due to their close interaction with large and varied groups of new people, with the injection Men ACWY introduced for new university students last year.

PHE claims the jab will help protect against meningitis W in particular, but protects against all strains of the disease, that if untreated can cause death or disability.

The meningitis W infection is fatal in one in 10 cases and can lead to long-term health problems including deafness, epilepsy and amputations. There have been 200 cases in the last 12 months, compared to 22 in 2009.

GPs in England are inviting 17 and 18-year-olds to come for a vaccine. First-time students under the age of 25 are eligible too. People who missed out on the jab last year should also see their doctor, experts say.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of Immunisation at PHE 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.

"We are encouraging all eligible 17 and 18 year-olds who have just left school to get vaccinated - particularly those heading to college or university. Young people and those around them should be alert to the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia. Get vaccinated as soon as possible, remain vigilant and seek urgent medical help if you have concerns for yourself or friends."

Liz Brown, Meningitis Now chief executive, said: "Up to a quarter of students carry the bacteria that can cause meningitis compared to one in ten of the general population. In the UK every university could experience at least one case of meningitis among its students within the first term. It’s vital that those going to Uni this autumn are not complacent about the threat of meningitis - we urge them to take up this lifesaving vaccine before they go."