Meningistis vaccine warning to St Helens students

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Students from St Helens who have recently started university courses are being urged by health chiefs to make sure they protect themselves by getting a meningitis W vaccination.

Rates of MenW in university students have risen dramatically over the past year.

Meningitis is a serious life-threatening condition. Unfortunately, the number of new meningitis cases in young people has increased over the past few years. New university students are particularly at risk

Liz Gaulton, St Helens Council’s director of public health

University halls of residence or shared accommodation provide the ideal conditions for the disease to spread quickly – putting new students, or ‘freshers’, at risk.

This life-threatening condition can be prevented through vaccination, which will boost immunity at just the right time – before students arrive at

their new college or university.

From August 2015, GPs will invite all 18 year olds to be vaccinated as part of the NHS vaccination programme. First-time university students up to the age of 25 will also be able to request vaccination.

A vaccination programme for teenagers in secondary schools will begin next year.

The Men ACWY vaccine protects against four different causes of meningitis and septicaemia – meningococcal (Men) A, C, W and Y diseases.

Young people are more at risk just after starting university, when they will be mixing closely with lots of new people – some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria, but the disease can be passed on in any setting.

Liz Gaulton, St Helens Council’s director of public health, said: “Meningitis is a serious life-threatening condition. Unfortunately, the

number of new meningitis cases in young people has increased over the past few years. New university students are particularly at risk. I would urge any young person who is invited to have a vaccine at their GP practice to do so, and protect their health.”

Meningococcal infection can cause meningitis (inflammation of the brain) or septicaemia (blood poisoning). Common early symptoms, which are not always present, may include:

* A rash that does not fade when pressed with a glass (known as the tumbler test) due to bleeding under the skin

* Sudden onset high fever

* A severe and worsening headache (without any other obvious cause)

* Severe neck stiffness

* Aversion to bright lights

* Very cold hands and feet

* Drowsiness that can deteriorate into a fever

A vaccination programme for teenagers in secondary schools will begin next year.

For more information go to www.nhs.uk/Pages/HomePage.aspx and search ‘Men W vaccine’.