Health chiefs are urging young people - particularly those going to college or university this autumn - to get vaccinated against meningitis and septicaemia.

Cases of MenW, one of the most aggressive and deadly strains of meningitis, are increasing year on year, from 22 cases in 2009 to nearly 200 cases in the past 12 months.

Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. 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.

GPs will be inviting teenagers aged 17 and 18 - born between 1 September, 1997 and 31 August, 1998 - to have a vaccination which will offer protection against inflammation of the brain and blood poisoning caused by four meningococcal strains.

Public Health England is urging anyone aged up to 25 who is starting university to get vaccinated by their GP, and meanwhile the City of Wolverhampton Council's Public Health team is working closely with the University of Wolverhampton to support awareness and vaccination among the student population.

Councillor Paul Sweet, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: "Meningitis is a distressing disease and it can be fatal, while survivors are often left with severe disabilities as a result of the infection.

"I'd urge all those who are eligible to make sure they are vaccinated as soon as possible.

"It's also vitally important that young people planning to go to university this year get vaccinated prior to starting. Students are at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease, as many of them will be mixing closely with lots of new people at university, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria."

Dr Ash Banerjee, Screening and Immunisation lead with PHE West Midlands, said: "Since 2009, there has been a rapid increase in cases of Men W across England, with students particularly at risk. Protecting young people from this potentially deadly disease as they embark upon one of the most important periods of their lives is vitally important. The vaccination will save lives and prevent lifelong devastating disability."

People are also urged to remain alert to the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease and seek urgent medical attention if there is any concern.

The disease develops rapidly and early symptoms include headache, vomiting, muscle pain and fever with cold hands and feet. Anyone developing these symptoms should seek urgent medical attention - don't wait for a rash to develop before acting.

For more details about meningitis, please visit Type=links;Linkid=6479;Title=NHS Choices - Meningitis;Target=_blank;.

  • released: Wednesday 17 August, 2016