Students returning to uni urged to get meningitis vaccine

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 - 9:35am – Health Protection
Students returning to uni urged to get meningitis vaccine

Students returning to university for the start of term are being urged by the Public Health Agency (PHA) to get a vaccine that can help protect against meningitis and septicaemia.

The vaccine, which helps protect against meningococcal A, C, W and Y disease, is available from GPs for anyone aged 17-19 years (ie those born between 2 July 1996 and 1 July 1999), and first time university students up to the age of 25.

Figures show that only around half of those eligible in this age group have so far taken up the free vaccine.

Dr Lucy Jessop, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “Older teenagers are at higher risk of getting MenW disease in particular, so you need to get vaccinated to help protect yourself. It will also reduce the risk of you carrying the bacteria, therefore also protecting those around you.

“We would urge those entitled to receive the vaccine but have not yet done so, to contact their GP to make an appointment, whether you are at university or not.

“However, people at university for the first time usually mix with larger groups, making them more exposed to various infections or diseases.

“Many university students may be back and forth to campus taking exams at the moment but we’d encourage them to think about getting the vaccination now before the start of term, when they’ll be mixing with larger groups more frequently again.

“Even if you have recently had the MenC vaccine, for example in school, you should still get the MenACWY vaccine. It will increase your protection against Men C and provide protection against the three other meningococcal groups.”

It is still important to know the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia and seek medical help immediately if you, or someone you know, experiences them.

Look out for any of these symptoms:

  • Fever, cold hands and feet
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Drowsiness, difficult to wake up
  • Irritability and/or confusion
  • Dislike of bright lights
  • Severe headache or muscle pains
  • Pale, blotchy skin with or without a rash
  • Convulsions/seizures
  • Stiff neck.

Meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning). Both diseases are very serious and, especially if not diagnosed early, they can kill.

The early symptoms of meningococcal disease are similar to those of flu, so you need to be able to recognise the symptoms very quickly even if you have been vaccinated as the vaccines offered through the routine immunisation programme do not protect against all forms of the disease.

There are five main groups of meningococcal bacteria that can cause meningitis and septicaemia – A, B, C, W and Y. The same bacteria that cause these serious diseases can also be carried in the back of the nose and throat, especially in young adults.

For more information on the MenACWY vaccination programme visit: www.pha.site/menleaflet