Meningitis sparks fear on campus

A history student is recovering after being struck down with potentially lethal bacterial meningitis, following a soar in reported cases across the country.

Sixteen York students, including the boyfriend of the infected 19-year-old and a friend visiting from Leeds University have all been checked for signs of the illness and have been issued with antibiotics.

The first year Alcuin student fell ill on Saturday Week 2 while on a shopping trip in York. She was rushed to a walk-in medical centre by friends, but was reportedly “sent away” after staff misdiagnosed the deadly disease as influenza.

Friends were alarmed when a rash appeared on the arm of the woman, a tell tale signature of the illness, and she was admitted to York District Hospital at 5.00am on Sunday morning, but was still not diagnosed with the disease for several hours.

After spending two weeks in hospital, the student, who did not want to be named, is now recovering with family at home in the city of Bath, and is hoping to return to her studies early next term.

The York health scare came just days after a 20-year-old student from Sussex University died suddenly from the same B strain of the disease, which currently does not have a vaccine.

Bev Corbett, Education Manager of the Meningitis Trust, said awareness of the disease among students has fallen since the introduction of the Meningitis C vaccine.

“There is still no vaccine for the most prevalent group of meningitis – meningococcal B, so the disease should still be a concern.”

“If you think someone is unwell and may have meningitis or septicaemia, don’t wait for a rash to appear, get urgent medical advice straightaway.”

Health officials at York have renewed warnings about the seriousness of the disease after reported cases of meningitis soared at the start of the year, with 53 infections in the first week of January alone.

However, following a flood of concerned students, health centre staff have also warned against “unnecessary panic” and “student hypochondria” after rumours circulated that the disease had spread to surrounding colleges.

Panic swept through James College after it was feared that the disease had passed from the boyfriend of the infected woman, who is a James student.

“The problem is that the symptoms of meningitis are a lot like those of flu, so it is incredibly difficult to know if it’s just a bit of flu or potentially life-threatening” a health centre source said.

University Press Spokesperson, Hilary Layton, quashed rumours of an emerging epidemic on campus, and dismissed them as “unfounded.” “If there was another outbreak, we would be the first to know” she insisted.

The key early signs of meningitis are headache, stiff neck and dislike of bright lights. Other symptoms such as vomiting, drowsiness, joint pain and fever may also be experienced.

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