Make sure your teenagers get vaccinated against meningitis before they head off to university

Sunday 2nd September, 2018

As teenagers are getting ready to leave home to move into student accommodation, the NHS is urging parents to make sure your children have had their vaccination.

Teenagers are the second most at risk group of contracting meningitis after babies and toddlers.

The bacterial disease can be deadly if it is left untreated - it can also lead to long term health problems including an acquired brain injury, deafness and amputations.

Many people can mistake the signs and symptoms for 'fresher's flu' or a hangover.

Public Health England is asking for students to check they are up to date with the MenACWY vaccine – which protects against meningitis – and the measles, mumps and rubella jab before the start of term.

The number of European cases of measles has reached an eight-year high.

Some students starting university this year may have missed out on the MMR vaccine as children, with uptake as low as 80% in 2003.

With this in mind, the NHS is encouraging students to check with their GP that they are up to date with their MMR and MenACWY vaccinations before term starts.

First-year students especially are at increased risk of meningococcal infection if they are unvaccinated, particularly as they spend large amounts of time with new people in confined environments such as university halls.

More than 41,000 measles cases and 37 deaths were recorded across Europe during the first half of this year, according to the World Health Organization.

England has also experienced an outbreak of measles this year, with 828 laboratory-confirmed cases between 1 January and 13 August, according to PHE.

The MMR vaccine is available to anyone who did not receive two doses as a child.

The MenACWY jab, introduced in 2015, protects against four meningococcal strains that cause meningitis and septicaemia.

It is routinely offered to people in years nine and 10 at school, but anyone who has missed out can be vaccinated free of charge until their 25th birthday.

The message to students is - it’s never too late to protect yourself and your friends from these highly infectious and serious diseases. Get vaccinated today.