Freshers' Guide to... Meningitis

August 25, 2016

  • Meningitis is a dangerous illness. If not diagnosed very quickly, it can kill or result in permanent harm.
  • Freshers at universities are at an elevated risk of catching meningococcal meningitis compared to most other demographics.
  • There are various types of meningitis. Some, but not all, can be prevented through vaccinations.

  • Protect yourself and your friends by learning which symptoms to look out for.
  • Protect yourself by making sure you’ve had the correct vaccinations. In particular, make sure you’ve had a vaccine that includes protection against Meningitis W.

Protect Yourself and Your Friends: Know the Symptoms

The most common type of meningitis in the UK is Meningitis B. There is no vaccine for adults against Men B, and babies have only started receiving the newly developed vaccination in 2015.

Therefore, the only protection against meningitis is knowledge of the symptoms and vigilance.

Symptoms include:

  • high fever
  • headache
  • very fast progression of the illness (the fever rises within a few hours to a point where the ill person can become disoriented and unable to realise the seriousness of their condition)
  • vomitting
  • neck stiffness
  • fear of bright lights
  • cold hands & feet
  • a rash that does not fade when pressed with a glass

Not all symptoms may present themselves – do not wait for the rash to appear!

If you feel ill after starting at university, please contact friends and family and ask them to check up on you every couple of hours during the first day. If you think you may have meningitis, phone emergency services and ask for an ambulance.

If a friend or flatmate falls ill (or appears to have a bad hangover!), please check up on them after an hour or two. If they have a high fever or other symptoms of meningitis when you check on them, phone emergency services and request an ambulance.

Protect Yourself: Meningitis ACWY Vaccination

Most people have had a vaccination against Meningitis C as a young child but protection falls over time. Since 2015, additional vaccinations against Meningitis W are recommended in the UK.

Meningitis W used to be extremely rare in the UK. However, the number of cases has been growing rapidly. Therefore, since summer 2015, young people about to finish secondary education are routinely given Men ACWY vaccines (rather than just Meningitis C vaccines).

  • UK students: If you’ve had a meningitis booster vaccine since August 2015, then you were probably given the Meningitis ACWY vaccine. Please check your vaccination record! However, if you were born between 1st September 1990 and 31st August 1996, you are unlikely to have had the Men ACWY vaccine. If you haven’t had the Men ACWY jab and you are under 25 years old, please contact your GP to get vaccinated.
  • EU / international students: if you’re under 25 and a first year student, you should get a vaccination against meningitis if you haven’t already done so. Specifically, please get the Men ACWY vaccine.

Why do I need to have the vaccine?

The risk of Meningococcal disease is increased in the first weeks of starting university, so it is important you make sure you are protected.

This is the result of mixing closely with lots of new people, some of whom may unknowingly carry the bacteria which causes meningitis. Meningitis can spread quickly in areas where people live in close contact with each other, such as university halls of residence or shared accommodation. Those returning to university to continue their studies are not at increased risk.

How do I get the vaccination?

Call your GP surgery and say you need to have the Meningitis ACWY vaccination because you’re starting university.

More information

Tagged: gettingstarted unilife