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New students under 25 are being advised to get Men ACWY vaccine.
Freshers coming to university, who are under 25 and have not received the Men ACWY vaccine are advised to register at a local GP and request the combined meningitis vaccine.
NHS reports say that students are at a high risk of infection because they are likely to be in close contact with lots of new people from all over the country, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria.
NHS advice suggests that the vaccine should be administered at least two weeks prior to starting university.
The highest risk of meningitis is in the first year of university. As the Men ACWY vaccine is being targeted at those at highest risk, students in their second year or above of university are not included in this vaccination programme.
The vaccine aims to improve protection against meningococcal group W (MenW) disease, which has been on the rise in recent years and is given by an injection into the upper arm. There are two Men ACWY vaccines that will be used in the vaccination programme, called Nimenrix and Menveo. They are very similar and both work equally well.
The NHS urge students to take the vaccine due to a rise in cases of meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) caused by a particularly deadly strain of the Men W bacteria.
Although the total number of meningococcal cases in England and Wales has been falling since the early 2000s, Men W infections have increased from only 22 cases in 2009 to 117 cases in 2014. Currently, Men W accounts for almost a quarter of all meningococcal infections in England and Wales.
Lancaster University’s Dr Derek Gatherer, an expert in infectious diseases, said: “Meningitis can be fatal and also leave survivors with permanent life-changing health problems. So, there are two things you have to do.
“Number 1 is to get vaccinated: before you leave home for campus, go to your local GP surgery and make an appointment to get the Men ACWY vaccine. This jab will protect you against the most dangerous forms of meningitis. If you don’t manage to get this done before you arrive, the Lancaster University Medical Centre or another local GP will be able to sort you out.
“Number 2 is to learn what the symptoms of meningitis are. There is a set of them, and they don’t always occur together. Don’t wait to see if they all develop, and don’t wait until the next morning to see if they go away.
“So get vaccinated, do your homework on the symptoms and take care of your friends.”
Men W disease, like all meningococcal infections, can come on suddenly and progress quickly.
Early symptoms of meningococcal disease include severe headache, diarrhoea/vomiting, neck stiffness, severe muscle pain, fever, cold hands and feet, drowsiness and difficulty waking up. If you, or someone you know, has these symptoms, seek urgent medical advice.
More information is available on the NHS website.