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Meningitis - Signs, Symptoms, Support

National Meningitis Awareness Campaign: don’t forget to visit your doctor for a meningitis vaccination before you arrive on Campus!

All under 25s are eligible for the Meningitis vaccine - please speak to your GP about getting yours.

More people contract meningitis and septicaemia than you might expect. 16 –25 year olds fall within the second highest at risk group and freshers in particular are vulnerable to the disease.

That’s why it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms – meningitis and septicaemia can strike quickly and can kill in just hours. 

Did you know?

• One in four 15-19 year olds carry the meningococcal bacteria that can cause meningitis and septicaemia in their throats
• There are five main groups of meningococcal bacteria, Men A, B, C, W and Y
• Not all carriers become ill – in most instances this will boost your natural immunity
• These bacteria can be passed on through intimate kissing or by coughing and sneezing
• Meningitis cases have increased – with a rise among university students

Why are Uni Freshers more vulnerable?

Every year, hundreds, if not thousands of students from around the country (or even the world) come together to start their student life, living side-by-side in halls of residence. Their social interaction increases and bodies meet bacteria they have never encountered before. Think about ‘Fresher’s Flu’ and how quickly a whole house can be affected

Missing the signs can be easy – we know it’s not on the top of the ‘student life’ agenda

Even when symptoms do get noticed, they can be easily mistaken for common illnesses like the flu or a hangover

The Vaccine

A Men ACWY vaccine, which protects against A, C, W and Y meningococcal bacteria, is available for all 17-18 year olds (you should have been contacted by your GP)and uni entrants 19-25 (you will need to make an appointment with your GP). We advise that students get the vaccine as soon as possible – ideally two weeks before starting university.

If you don’t have it yet, don’t panic! You are still eligible for the vaccine throughout your first year of uni but we do recommend getting it as soon as possible. Act now!

Remember, the vaccine doesn’t protect against all types of meningitis so make sure you know what symptoms to look out for.

Still have questions? Call Meningitis Now helpline on 0808 80 10 388 – we’re here to help.

What is Meningitis and How does it spread?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain. It can be caused by several types of germs. Some are called bacteria, others viruses. The symptoms they cause are similar but the treatment is very different. Hospital tests may be necessary to identify the type of meningitis.
The germs which cause bacterial meningitis and septicaemia are very common and live naturally in the back of the nose and throat. They spread between people in droplets from the mouth and nose.

Outside the human body they do not survive for very long and so cannot be picked up from homes, buildings or factories, water supplies or swimming pools. People of any age can carry these germs for days, weeks or months without becoming unwell. In fact, being a carrier helps boost natural immunity.

Only on rare occasions do the bacteria overcome the body's defences and cause meningitis. The incubation period for the disease is between three and five days after picking up the bacteria.

Symptoms of meningococcal meningitis / blood poisoning

  • High temperature
  • Bruising rash
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Severe headache
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Stiff neck
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Dislike of bright light
  • Drowsiness or confusion

Not all of these signs may show at once, but someone with this illness will become very ill.

The illness may progress over one or two days, but it can develop very rapidly, sometimes in a matter of hours. The early signs can be similar to a bad 'flu', but BE WATCHFUL and use your instincts. IF SOMEONE BECOMES ILL WITH SOME OF THESE SIGNS OR SYMPTOMS, CONTACT THE DOCTOR URGENTLY and ask for advice.

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