Are you vaccinated against deadly meningitis and septicaemia?
6 September 2017 - Nick Boothroyd
As the new term begins, hundreds of thousands of students across the country are being reminded that they should now be vaccinated against deadly meningitis and septicaemia.
But it’s not too late for anyone who remains unvaccinated– register with a new GP now if you’ve relocated, and request the free NHS vaccine if you’re entitled to it.
Those born between 1 September 1998 and 31 August 1999 should have taken up the vaccine, along with any new entrants to higher education (university freshers) and anyone who was eligible for the vaccine (introduced in 2015) in previous years but missed vaccination (up to their 25th birthday).
If you are unsure, it is always worth checking this out with your GP.
The MenACWY jab protects against four strains of meningococcal disease which cause meningitis and septicaemia, known as strains A, C, W and Y.
MenW is one of the most aggressive and life threatening forms and meningococcal disease can be fatal. Many survivors are left with life changing disabilities, including brain damage and loss of limbs.
The MenACWY vaccine remains the best form of protection against the A, C, W, and Y strains with a 100% effectiveness rate in those that have been vaccinated so far.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE (Public Health England) said: “The MenACWY vaccination programme will save lives and prevent lifelong and devastating disability. We have seen a rapid increase in Men W cases across England in recent years and vaccination is the most effective way of protecting against infection.
“Young people are particularly at risk as they are carriers of the disease. Being in confined environments with close contact, such as university halls, hostels when travelling, or attending festivals, increase the chances of infection if unprotected.
“Get vaccinated as soon as possible, remain vigilant and seek urgent medical help if you have concerns for yourself or friends.”
While the vaccine also helps protect against Men A, C, W and Y, it does not cover all forms of meningococcal disease. It is therefore important for young people to be vigilant in spotting early symptoms and to seek early medical assistance if they are concerned.
Identifying meningitis is not always easy and early symptoms can often be missed or mistaken for something else, including flu or hangovers - especially at the start of term when so many students are suffering from ‘freshers’ flu’.
Not everyone will develop these symptoms and they can appear in any order but common symptoms may include:
• Pale, blotchy skin with or without a rash
• Irritability and/or confusion
• Severe headache, joint or muscle pains
• Dislike of bright lights
• Stiff neck
• Fever, cold hands and feet
• Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
• Drowsiness, difficult to wake up
For further information about the MenACWY vaccination, see the NHS Choices website and https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/menacwy-school-leaver-flyer
Meningitis Research Foundation’s online eligibility checker can be found at: www.meningitis.org/oneshot
More information from Meningitis Now can be found here: https://www.meningitisnow.org/