Doctors across East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen are encouraging all young people going to college or university this autumn to follow advice from Public Health England and get vaccinated against meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) due to the MenW bug.
MenW is one of the most aggressive and deadly strains of Meningitis with the number of cases increasing every year, from 22 in 2009 to almost 200 in the last year.
There are a number of strains of the infection and the vaccination gives protection against four of them– MenA, MenC, MenW and MenY. These illnesses can be deadly and survivors are often left with life-changing disabilities.
Young people going on to university or college are particularly at risk of meningitis and septicaemia because they mix with so many other students, some of whom are unknowingly carrying the bacteria. But anyone in this age group is strongly advised to get the vaccination – whether starting college or not.
Public Health England is also advising anyone aged up to 25 and starting university to get vaccinated by their GP.
Ideally young people should get vaccinated before term starts – to ensure immunity. But anyone can still get the jab from their new GP in their college town.
Dr Pervez Muzaffar, a GP in Darwen, explained why it is important that young people about to start college or university follow this advice.
He said: “This infection is extremely aggressive with symptoms developing suddenly. These include headache, vomiting, muscle pain specially neck pain, dislike to light, fever, and cold hands and feet. Students should be alert to the signs and symptoms and should not wait for a rash to develop before seeking medical attention urgently.”
Students are also encouraged to look out for their mates, particularly if they go to their room unwell.
Dr Richard Daly, a Burnley GP and Director of Partnerships at NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group, added: “The vaccine not only protects those who are vaccinated, but also helps control the spread of the disease amongst the wider population. If you have any concerns about yourself or your friends, then make sure you seek medical help immediately.”