Young people who are offered a meningitis vaccination should take it up so that they are protected against the disease.

Young people going to college or university this autumn should get vaccinated to protect against rising cases of Meningitis W (MenW) and septicaemia. Meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning) are very serious diseases caused by meningococcal bacteria. Both diseases can be fatal, but they are easily prevented.

Cases of MenW have been increasing year-on-year, from 22 cases in 2009 to more than 200 cases in the past 12 months.

There are a number of different types of the infection and the vaccination gives protection against four of them – MenA, MenC, MenW and MenY. These infections can be deadly and survivors can be left with life-changing disabilities.

Young people going on to university or college are particularly at risk of meningitis and septicaemia because they mix with so many other students, some of whom are unknowingly carrying the bacteria. Ideally young people should get vaccinated before term starts – to ensure immunity. But anyone can still get the jab from their new GP in their college town.

GPs will be writing to the following groups to encourage them to get vaccinated at their surgery as soon as possible:

  • All 17 and 18 year olds (school year 13; born between 1/9/1997 to 31/08/1998)
  • 19-year-olds who missed getting vaccinated last year (anyone born between 1/9/1996 to 31/08/1997)

  It is also advised that anyone aged up to 25 starting university get vaccinated by their GP.

The disease 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 housemates and friends, particularly if they go to their room unwell.

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