Leading charity Meningitis Now is urging all students returning to university after the Christmas and New Year break to make themselves aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis and to take up a free vaccine.
Cases of the killer disease peak during the winter months and students are a high-risk group.
The charity’s acting chief executive Rachel Robinson said: “The ability to recognise meningitis and septicaemia quickly can save lives. The sooner you can get medical help, the less likely it is to become life threatening.
“That’s why learning the signs and symptoms is so important.”
Early symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and muscle pain are very similar to flu or even a hangover, but someone with meningitis or septicaemia can get a lot worse very quickly.
More specific signs and symptoms to look out for include fever with cold hands and feet, drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights and a rash which doesn’t fade under pressure.
“Prevention is also vital,” Rachel added, “which is why we’re also encouraging all eligible young people to take up the free vaccine for Men ACWY.
“Hopefully our ongoing campaign will encourage more of them to take this simple and potentially lifesaving step.”
Men ACWY immunisation was added to the national programme in August 2015 following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in response to the rising number of meningococcal W (Men W) cases.
But figures from Public Health England show that just 11.1 per cent of 18-year-olds eligible to get the Men ACWY vaccine between April and July last year had taken up the offer, leaving about half a million young people in England in this age group still at risk from the disease.
For more information on Men ACWY and to request free signs and symptoms cards or download the app visit the website www.MeningitisNow.org or the charity’s student website, https://www.meningitisnow.org/fight-for-now