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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

New students encouraged to get meningitis vaccine after 'rapid' rise in cases

Written by Ella Pickover

Students are being urged to get vaccinated to protect themselves against meningitis before starting university amid "rapid increases" of cases of a deadly bug.

Health leaders are encouraging soon-to-be university students to get the vaccine for group W meningococcal disease (Men W) - which can cause meningitis and septicaemia

Cases of meningitis and blood poisoning caused by a highly virulent strain of Men W bacteria increased from 22 cases in England in 2009/10 to 210 in 2015/16.

As a result, health officials added the Men ACWY immunisation to the national immunisation programme in August 2015.

Older teenagers and university students are encouraged to get the vaccine to protect themselves against the deadly bacteria.

This group is thought to be at a higher risk of infection because they mix closely with lots of new people - some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria at the back of their noses and throats.

Public Health England (PHE) said cases of meningitis and septicaemia caused by the aggressive meningococcal W strain are still rising.

While more than two million eligible young people have received the MenACWY vaccine, some remain unvaccinated, PHE added.

It warned Men W is one of the most aggressive and life-threatening forms of meningococcal disease and can be fatal.

Many survivors are left with life-changing disabilities, including brain damage and loss of limbs.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE said: "The MenACWY vaccination programme will save lives and prevent lifelong and devastating disability.

"We have seen a rapid increase in Men W cases across England in recent years and vaccination is the most effective way of protecting against infection.

"Young people are particularly at risk from the MenW strain. Being in confined environments with close contact, such as university halls, pubs and clubs increases the chances of infection if unprotected.

"We urge anyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

"Remain vigilant and seek urgent medical help if you or someone you know may be showing signs of infection."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) David Cheskin / PA Wire.