Freshers urged to get vaccinated against Meningitis C before starting university

Young people from Kent and Medway, due to enter university for the first time this autumn, are being encouraged to get the Meningitis C vaccine booster.

Meningococcal group C disease is a rare but life-threatening disease that occurs mainly in young children and young adults.

Young people are at a greater risk of catching meningitis just after starting university as they will be mixing closely with lots of new people, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria.

Dr John Rodriguez, Consultant in Public Health and Kent and Medway Screening and Immunisation Lead said: “Starting university is an exciting time but it is also when students are at increased risk of contracting meningitis, as they come into close contact with many other students.

“Symptoms can include the sudden onset of a high fever, a severe headache, a dislike of bright lights, vomiting and painful joints.

“By checking in with your GP and having the Meningitis C booster around two weeks before going to university, you can protect yourself, your family and your new friends from this dangerous disease.”

This will be the first year that university entrants under the age of 25 years are offered the Meningococcal C vaccine as part of the catch up programme. The catch up programme aims to ensure all those who will not have been vaccinated at around 14 years of age receive the vaccine.

The vaccine is also important for students coming to study from abroad who are unable to get the vaccine at home.

The Meningitis C vaccine programme has proved very effective in cutting down instances of the disease. There were 995 Meningitis C cases between 1998 and 1999, but when Meningitis C became part of the routine immunisations for babies in 1999 cases dramatically reduced year on year, due to a high uptake of the vaccine. Between 2011 and 2012 there were just 29 cases reported. Many of these were in adolescents.