English students could be putting themselves at a higher risk of contracting a particularly deadly strain of meningitis, according to the charity Meningitis Now, as figures suggest that less than half of eligible 17 to 18 year olds have received the potentially lifesaving vaccine.
There is a greater risk of infection during the winter months and bacterial meningitis can lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning), which can be fatal.
Not all strains of the disease can be vaccinated against, so it’s important to be aware of the symptoms, which can include fever, vomiting, confusion and irritability, severe muscle pain, severe headache, pale and blotchy skin and a stiff neck. Medical advice should be sought urgently and immediately if there is a suspected case.
Meningitis Now is a charity that aims to increase awareness about the potentially fatal disease and has called for all students to receive the free vaccine.
Sue Davie, Meningitis Now chief executive said: “Up to a quarter of students carry the bacteria that can cause meningitis compared to one in ten of the general population.
“Over 12 per cent of all cases occur in the 14 to 24 age group, with first year students being at particular risk.
“It’s vital that students are not complacent about the threat of meningitis – we urge them to take up this lifesaving vaccine.”
The disease is spread by prolonged close contact with a person who is infected. Because of this, students are at a higher risk of infection.
Since August last year, all 17 and 18 year olds are eligible for a free meningitis vaccine and first time university students aged between 19 and 25, can claim a free vaccination, which could potentially save lives.
More information on meningitis can be found at meningitisnow.org. To find out how to receive your free vaccination, contact your local GP’s surgery or practice.