If you’re heading off to uni this September, chances are you’re preoccupied thinking about your course, your flat, your flatmates – will you get on with them? – and your new surroundings. You’re not thinking about meningitis. Why would you be?
Well, first year university students, especially those who move into halls of residence, are at-risk of catching the disease. With large numbers of students flocking to campus from all around the world, this creates a hotbed for meningitis to thrive and grow, making it extremely easy to catch.
Symptoms include fever, muscle pain, a stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, a severe headache and rashes. Some of these symptoms are easy to confuse with a hangover, so it is vital that young people are aware and stay vigilant through Freshers’ Week and the following weeks.
First year students under the age of 25 are eligible to receive the free ACWY vaccine, an injection that helps protect against four different strains of the disease, which is one of the best ways for young people to prevent catching meningitis.
Dr Tom Nutt, CEO of the UK’s largest meningitis charity Meningitis Now said: “Meningitis is often difficult to diagnose and can develop very quickly, with devastating consequences.”
“Protect yourself and your family by knowing the signs and symptoms, trusting your instincts, and seeking medical help immediately if you suspect meningitis.”
Each year, too many students die because they don’t get the vaccination.
Paul Gentry’s daughter Izzy, a student at St Brendan’s College in Bristol, died in 2016 after contracting meningitis.
He said: “I know first-hand how devastating it is to lose a child to meningitis. We must do all we can as parents, to ensure that our children are protected and safe. The ACWY vaccine is one really simple way that young people can protect themselves.”
Julia Styles, whose daughter Emily died after contracting meningitis in 2014 said: “We need to protect our children from this terrible disease.
“I know first-hand the complete destruction that engulfs a family that has been devastated by meningitis, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
“Please, please, please urge your children to get the ACWY vaccine – it really could save you a lifetime of heartache.”
Going to university, you’ll be caught up in making new friends, getting familiar with your new home and nights out – we know how it is – but don’t mistake meningitis for freshers’ flu. Your university will recommend a nearby practice for all of its students, so make sure you take the time to register. Getting the injection will take seconds, and could be life saving.
For more information, visit www.meningitisnow.org