Meningitis is a vaccine preventable disease that can kill. Sadly, University students have died, or suffered life-changing injuries, after contracting meningitis. You should be vaccinated before you arrive at University. If you haven’t been vaccinated, you can contact your GP today.
The following video is from Public Health England and shows an interview with a student who suffered life changing injuries. Please note, this video contains descriptions that may upset you.
The MenACWY Vaccine
The MenACWY vaccine is available for free from your GP if you are starting university for the first time and are under 25. If in doubt, you can check your eligibility on the Meningitis Research Foundation website.
This vaccine prevents against four strains of meningococcal bacteria, strains; A, C, W, Y.
You should ideally be vaccinated before you start University but, if you have not been, you can contact your GP and see if you are eligible to book an appointment now.
The following video is from Meninigitis Now and highlights exactly how serious meningitis can be. Please note, this video contains scenes which you may find upsetting;
The focus at the moment is Covid-19 but be aware that some of the symptoms overlap with meningitis. If you have Covid, you need to self isolate unless you are not able to manage your symptoms and need to seek medical help. Meninigitis, however, is a medical emergency that can be fatal without quick medical help. Trust your instincts and do not delay getting medical help if you think you need it.
The focus at the moment is Covid-19 but be aware that some of the symptoms overlap with meningitis
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is an infection of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges) which can be caused by both bacteria and viruses.
The bacteria that causes meningitis can be found in the throats and noses of around a quarter of 15 to 19 year olds. Although in most cases they cause no harm, these bacteria can invade the body and can cause the infection.
Bacterial meningitis can lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning), which poses further complications.
When someone has suspected meningitis they should be taken to hospital immediately where the cause will be identified.
Bacterial meningitis is much more serious, and has a 10% fatality rate.
The outlook is better if it is identified and treated quicker, but people can lose limbs or have life changing injuries, such as deafness, blindness, epilepsy , or memory and coordination problems.
There have been outbreaks at multiple Universities in the UK, and students have sadly suffered life changing injuries and died from bacterial meningitis.
Why might you be at risk?
One in four 15 – 19-year old's carry these bacteria in the back of their throats, compared to one in ten of the UK population.
You can be a carrier without becoming ill and in most cases, it will help boost your natural immunity. In an age group where more people are carrying the bacteria, more disease will occur.
Meningococcal bacteria are passed from person to person by coughing, sneezing and intimate kissing, increased social interaction in this age group means that the bacteria can be passed on more easily.
University students can be more vulnerable due to living in more cramped housing or halls of residence. In many cases young people come together from all over the country - and indeed the world - to live in one place and can be exposed to bacteria and viruses their bodies have not met before. This is why so many new students get “freshers’ flu”.
As the early symptoms of meningitis can disguise themselves as other things, such as common illnesses like flu, or maybe a hangover, it’s easy to mistake meningitis for something else.
When students go off to university, it is often the first time they are living away from their parents and, more often than not, their own health and wellbeing is not a priority for them. With no parents to keep an eye on their health, meningitis can get missed. It is vital that someone always knows if you are feeling unwell and can check up on you.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Meningitis
Bacterial meningitis symptoms may develop within hours or days. Viral meningitis symptoms may also develop quickly or over several days.
Here are more common signs and symptoms of both types. Not all symptoms may appear or appear in the same order. Fever, headache, and neck stiffness are the hallmark symptoms of meningitis.
- Severe, persistent headache
- Neck stiffness and pain that makes it difficult to touch your chin to your chest
- Nausea and vomiting
- Confusion and disorientation (acting "goofy")
- Drowsiness or sluggishness
- Sensitivity to bright light
- Poor appetite
- Seizures (fits)
- Pale blotchy skin (spots/rash) see the glass test here.
Not all of these symptoms will occur, and you should not wait for a rash to develop. If in doubt get some help.
If in Doubt
- If you think someone has meningitis or septicemia get medical help immediately.
- You know your child, a loved one, or your own body, best. Describe the symptoms and say you think it could be meningitis or septicemia.
- Early diagnosis can be difficult. If you have had advice and are still worried, get medical help again.
- If you are worried about the symptoms of meningitis and spotting them in time, let us help you with our free symptoms card. Meningitis Now also has a new iPhone application for you to download on the symptoms.
- Make sure you are registered with GP while you are at university, and you know how to contact them.
- Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest A & E immediately if you think you have meningitis.
- Call NHS Direct or your GP for advice if you are not sure if its anything serious or you think you may have been exposed to someone with meningitis.
For more information please go to the Meningitis Now website here.
Contact Student Advice
+44 (0)2920 781410