Did you know that Meningitis B accounted for 54% of all confirmed cases of the disease in the UK during 2017/18? Of these, 80% affected young adults.
If you are planning to go to university or have already started, you will be aware of the recommendation for a Meningitis ACWY vaccination. This vaccine protects against many strains of the virus, but it does not offer protection against Meningitis B (Men B). This has been highlighted by a recent tragic death at Bath Spa University.
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Some bacteria that cause meningitis can also cause septicaemia (blood poisoning), a potentially life threatening infection. Babies and young children are most at risk of the disease with teenagers and young people in the next most vulnerable group. Babies are vaccinated against Men B under the NHS schedule, however, older children and young adults remain at risk of infection.
Up to 25% of adolescents carry the bacteria in the back of their nose and throat without having any signs or symptoms of the disease.
It is not fully understood why the disease develops in some people and not others, however, known risk factors include:
- preceding flu
- living in close proximity with others
Studies also show meningococcal disease reaches peak levels in the winter months, reducing to low levels by late summer.
What are the symptoms?
Meningitis is transferred by contact with the respiratory secretions of someone carrying the organism. This usually requires either frequent or prolonged close contact with them.
- severe headache
- unexplained temperature rise
- cold hands and feet
- dislike of bright lights
- neck stiffness
- a developing rash
- joint pain
The onset can be subtle initially, so it is important to remain vigilant to signs of the disease. Trust your instincts and seek immediate medical advice if feeling ‘unusually unwell’.
Where can I get more information?
Viral meningitis infections can often be treated at home and get better within 7 to 10 days, but more serious cases may need to be treated in hospital.
Bacterial meningitis can cause serious problems and the condition requires close monitoring, so treatment in hospital is recommended in all cases.
Common complications associated with meningitis include:
- loss of hearing/sight
- problems with brain function, kidney function
- loss of limbs
- bone and joint problems.
We therefore encourage all students to consider the reassurance of additional protection from Meningitis B vaccination whilst studying away from home.
How many vaccinations do I need?
Young adults need 2 doses, with the second dose due 1 month after the first.
This vaccine is available for all as part of our vaccination service and the current cost (December 2019) is £125 per dose.
Please contact us if you are interested in this protection for yourself or a member of your family.