One of the last things on first year Leeds university students’ minds this year is likely to be getting a meningitis jab – but it shouldn’t be.
According to the latest figures by Public Health England there has been an alarming rise of a deadly new strain of meningococcal W meningitis (MenW) and septicaemia, and students are deemed an at-risk group.
With Freshers’ Week just days away, first year students are being ushered towards GP practices because of the fact they are set to mingle with hoards of new people.
It’s time we got the message out as recent figures suggest that cases of MenW have been increasing year-on-year, from 22 cases in 2009 to 117 last year, and an aggressive strain is believed to be speeding its spread up.
NHS Leeds West Clinical Commissioning Group is warning that as students mix closely with lots of new people, some may unknowingly be carrying the contagious meningococcal bacteria in their nose or throat.
But the meningococcal ACWY (Men ACWY) vaccination programme, which protects against four causes of the disease, has now been made available to 17 to 18 year olds and first-year students aged 19 to 25 for the first time.
The NHS and the Meningitis Research Foundation is urging people to take up the free vaccine to prevent the devastating disease spreading further among young people.
Seemingly innocuous symptoms like headaches and muscle pain are tell-tale signs of a disease that can leave survivors brain damaged, deaf or with learning difficulties.
The vaccine is out there, so don’t dismiss the opportunity to get protected.
WHAT IS MENW?
Headaches, vomiting, muscle pain, fever and cold hands and feet are symptoms of meningococcal disease.
A rash of tiny pinpricks may also develop once septicaemia has set in, which is likely to be a meningitis rash if it does not fade under pressure – for instance from a glass.
Survivors of MenW can often be left with long-term ailments such as deafness, brain damage, learning difficulties or seizures. If septicaemia is involved, sufferers can lose limbs.
For further information on the Men ACWY vaccine visit www.nhs.uk or www.meningitis.org.
People seeking vaccines should contact their GP.