As you mix with new people at the beginning of university, the likelihood of infections and illnesses being spread between people increases. Meningitis is a life-threatening disease that can affect anyone, but young people and students are at particularly high risk, due to being in close proximity whilst at University. People can carry the bacteria that cause meningitis and septicaemia without knowing it and without actually becoming ill themselves – but they’re still able to pass it on to others.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective layers that surround the brain and spinal cord. The symptoms can include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, stomach cramps and fever with cold hands and feet. Other symptoms include drowsiness, pale, blotchy skin, dislike of bright lights and a rash that doesn’t fade under pressure.
A free MenACWY vaccine is available to first year students up to the age of 25 through their GP*. This vaccine and knowing the symptoms of meningitis is the best protection against the disease, which can resemble the flu or a hangover and so is often ignored.
* If you’re a second/ third year student and you haven’t yet had the vaccination, speak to your GP to see what your options are.
What is Men A, B, C, W and Y?
Meningococcal bacteria, the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK, can be divided into several groups. The groups that most commonly cause the disease are A, B, C, W and Y.
The MenACWY vaccine is highly effective in preventing the disease, and the spread of the disease – so it is important you get vaccinated to protect yourself and others around you.
Register with a GP
If you haven’t registered with a doctor yet, do this as soon as you can if you’ve recently moved to Manchester, or you’ve moved to a different part of the city. You’ll be able to talk to them about getting vaccinated, and if you do get ill, it’ll be much easier to get seen by a doctor quickly. You can find your nearest GP service here.
Look out for your friends and flatmates
Students in shared accommodation, and those travelling and at festivals are more susceptible. If you think that one of your friends, or someone you live with, seems very unwell and it’s not getting better, make sure you contact 111.
Early signs and symptoms of both meningitis and septicaemia can appear very similar to the symptoms of the flu, a stomach bug, or a hangover. If you or someone you know appears to be getting much worse very quickly, make sure you get medical assistance as soon as possible.
If you think you or someone around you might be seriously ill, contact the ambulance service on 999.
You can find out more about meningitis here.