LETTER: Meningitis kills

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In the UK every university could experience at least one case of meningitis amongst its students within the first term. Meningitis can kill within hours. For those who survive, many are left with life-changing after-effects

The risk young people, and particularly first year university students are at an increased risk from meningococcal bacteria which can cause meningitis and septicaemia. Early signs can go undetected, and in young people can be put down to a bout of the flu, or even a hangover.

There are five main groups of meningococcal bacteria that commonly cause disease, Men A, B, C, W and Y. A report published last year showed a 430 per cent increase in Men W cases from 2009 to 2014, leading to the nationwide introduction of a Meningococcal ACWY vaccine for teenagers and young people through the NHS.

Last year, 14 and 15-year-olds began to be vaccinated at school, and a top-up programme was introduced for 17 and 18-year-olds through their GP.

Although they were contacted by post about the vaccine, only 35 per cent of this age group made an appointment, meaning that thousands are still at risk.

Taking exams, completing course work, passing your driving test and going to the pub; it’s no wonder that 17 and 18 year olds simply haven’t got round to visiting their GP for the vaccine.

It’s simply not a time that you put your health first. Which is why we are calling on you to talk to them about the vaccine now, before they head off to uni.

Michaela’s daughter Alisha had just started university in Liverpool when, unbeknown to her flatmates she contracted and died from meningitis overnight.

“Nothing in this world can ever prepare a parent for the loss of a child. Alisha had just turned 18 and had her whole life ahead of her but this was so tragically taken by such an awful illness.

“I urge people who know someone starting university to insist that they have the vaccination. It could help to save a life and prevent yet another family going through what we have had to endure.“

Just like Michaela, you can’t keep an eye on them once university has started and as the early signs of meningitis are so difficult to detect, getting vaccinated now, might just save their life. It is also important to remember that vaccine does not prevent all types of meningitis. Knowing the signs and symptoms to look out for and getting medical help quickly is vital.

Talk to them about the Men ACWY vaccine, and make sure they get it before they go. It’s really not worth taking the risk.

For more information on the vaccine, or to download the signs and symptoms app for your phone visit www.meningitisnow.org.

Liz Brown

Chief Executive

Meningitis Now

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