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.

  • Fever
  • 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
  • More severe symptoms include seizure and coma
  • Pale blotchy skin (spots/rash) see the glass test here.

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 septicaemia.
  • 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.


For more information please go to the Meningitis Now website here.