After babies and children under five, teenagers and young people are the second most at risk group for contracting meningitis and septicaemia. First year university students are at particular risk
Meningitis can strike quickly and kill within hours. Make sure you know the signs and symptoms and seek urgent medical help if concerned.
Meningitis facts for young people
- One in four 15 – 19 year olds carry meningococcal bacteria that can cause meningitis in the back of their throats, compared to one in ten of the UK population.
- The five main groups of meningococcal bacteria that commonly cause disease are groups A, B, C, W and Y.
- You can be a carrier without becoming ill and in most cases it will help boost your natural immunity. In an age group where more people are carrying the bacteria, there will be more disease.
- Meningococcal bacteria are passed from person to person by coughing, sneezing and intimate kissing. Increased social interaction in this age group means that the bacteria can be passed on more easily.
- Meningococcal group W (Men W) has historically been rare in the UK but since 2009 year on year cases of Men W have increased and continue to do so. A particularly aggressive strain of Men W is causing disease in all age groups but there has been a significant increase in university students
Why are first year university students at risk?
- Students can be more vulnerable to meningitis because of living in cramped housing, or halls of residence. In many cases, young people come together from all over the world to live in one place and can be exposed to bacteria and viruses their bodies have not met before. This is why so many new students get ‘fresher’s flu’.
- As the early symptoms of meningitis can disguise themselves as other things, such as common illnesses like flu, or maybe a hangover, it’s easy to mistake meningitis for something else.
- When students go off to university, it is often the first time they are living away from their parents and, more often than not, their own health and wellbeing is not a priority. With no parents to keep an eye on their health, meningitis can get missed.
Going off to university
- Help look after yourself and your friends at university.
- Request our FREE signs and symptoms card to keep in your purse or wallet. Call our Meningitis Helpline on 0808 80 10 388 to get yours
- Register with a GP surgery or health centre and know how to contact them
- Look out for friends and make sure you tell someone if you are feeling unwell so that they can check in on you
Effective vaccines are available to prevent some types of meningitis. Always check your vaccines are up-to-date with your GP before going to university.
- A Men ACWY vaccine is available and will offer protection against the four groups of meningococcal bacteria A, C, W and Y. The Department of Health has announced that the Men ACWY vaccine is going to be introduced from August 2015
- GP practices will call young people aged 17 – 18 (school year 13) and older university entrants (aged 19 – 25) to offer one dose of the vaccine. The vaccine is particularly important for those preparing to head off to university as they are at greater risk. The same age groups will also be offered the vaccine in 2016 and 2017
- From Spring 2016 the Men ACWY will replace Men C which is currently offered to year 9 or 10 (depending on local arrangements). This school-based programme will also provide a catch-up to include pupils in year 11 (15 and 16 year olds).
- You can download information on the new Men B and ACWY vaccines update to routine vaccination schedule 2015
Vaccination does not protect against all types of meningitis, make sure you know the signs and symptoms to look out for.
Concerned about meningitis?
If you think someone has meningitis or septicaemia, get medical help immediately.
- Describe the symptoms and say you think it could be meningitis or septicaemia.
- If you have had medical advice and are still worried, get medical help again.
- Trust your instincts.