Public Health England is urging young people who are going to university or college this autumn to get a vaccine against a deadly form of meningitis that is spreading among students.
The vaccine, which is called the Men ACWY vaccine, protects against the A, C, Y and W strains of the disease. It will protect against meningitis W in particular, which is an extremely deadly strain of the disease.
Older teenagers and university students are at greater risk of getting meningitis as they mix with groups of new people, some of whom may be unware that they are carrying the bug. Experts are particularly concerned about Meningitis W which is a ‘highly aggressive strain’. The infection is fatal in 1 in 10 cases and can cause long-term health problems epilepsy and amputations.
Early symptoms of meningococcal disease include:
- Muscle Pain
- Cold hands and Feet
- A rash of tiny red pinpricks
Meningitis UK say that young people should ideally have the vaccine two weeks before they go away to study. Any students who are not immunized before they start their time at university should book a vaccine through the university’s health centre or a local GP surgery.
Scotland will not be offering the vaccine to new students as most will already be immunized between the ages of 14-18 as part of a national programme. If you are from another part of the UK and intend to study in Scotland, you should arrange to have the vaccine before you arrive.
The Meningitis Research Foundation provide lots of information and advice for young people on the vaccine.
Picture credit: Meningitis Research Foundation