Public Health England has announced a pronounced increase in Meningitis is University students. In particular, they are falling victim to the virulent Meningitis W strain. It has been put down to being exposed to many new people and thus increase their risk of contracting infections amoungst which, is meningitis. The particular strain is Meningitis W that has caused this increase. The vaccine used to protect against this and other strains is the Men ACWY vaccine.

Cases of meningitis and septicaemia due to Men W have been increasing in England, from 22 cases in 2009 to 117 in 2014. The increase seems to be speeding up in 2015, caused by an aggressive strain of the bug. The bacteria causes a swelling of the lining of the brain (the meningies)

With early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment, most people with meningococcal disease make a full recovery. But it’s fatal in about 1 in 10 cases and can lead to long-term health problems, such as amputation, deafness, epilepsy and learning difficulties. Men W infections are particularly severe and usually need to be treated in intensive care. They have a higher death rate than the more common Men C and Men B strains.

  • Meningitis is an infection of the meninges – the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord
  • Meningococcal bacteria are common and carried harmlessly in the nose or throat by about one in 10 people
  • They are passed on through close contact
  • Symptoms can include a fever, tiredness, and general aches at first. These can get rapidly worse, with agitation, confusion, vomiting and headaches
  • People should seek help as soon as possible and should not wait for a rash to appear before getting advice

Students are being urged to get a free Men ACWY vaccination  from the NHS (free for students up to the age of 25),

However, older students and staff are not eligible and will need to source their vaccination through a provider of workplace vaccinations.

Author: Julian Evans