Freshers in Plymouth are being urged to get the meningococcal (Men) ACWY vaccine to protect themselves against Meningitis.
Public Health England and NHS England have given toolkits to universities including Plymouth University and the University of St Mark & St John, urging them to encourage students to have the jab, during Meningitis Week (19 – 25 September 2016).
The vaccination programme follows a continuing increase in MenW cases across all age groups in England. Nationally, there have been 209 cases in the past 12 months, almost ten times more than in 2009.
Professor Kelechi Nnoaham, Director of Public Health for Plymouth City Council, said: “It is really important that young people off to university for the first time get themselves vaccinated against meningitis and septicaemia, to get protection against the MenW bug, which is one of the most aggressive and deadly strains of meningitis.
“Students are particularly at risk because they mix with so many other freshers, some unknowingly carrying the bacteria. Anyone up to 25 starting university should get vaccinated by their GP.”
Councillor Lynda Bowyer, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care for Plymouth City Council, said: “We have a thriving student population here in Plymouth and we want them all to enjoy their experience here, but it is really important that people have the jab to protect themselves against this deadly disease.”
The disease can develop suddenly and progress rapidly. Early symptoms include: headache, vomiting, muscle pain, fever, and cold hands and feet – followed by a rash developing. But get medical attention urgently before a rash develops.
Mel Joyner, Director of Student Services at Plymouth University, said: “Plymouth University is proactively supporting the campaign encouraging all new students to get the meningitis vaccine and we are also advising students to register with their GP. They can do this by visiting the University Medical Centre website, or filling out a form in the Centre itself. Starting university is a busy and exciting time, but looking after their health is one of the most important things our students should be doing.”
Jenny Barnicoat, Head of Student Support at Marjon said: “We invited our local health center on campus during arrivals day to encourage students to register and sign- up for the vaccination if they hadn’t already, and they reported that many more students had taken it up before starting University than last year. They will also be present at our Freshers Fair and our Student Support Service provides more information about meningitis in students’ wellbeing packs.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE said: “Since 2009, there has been a rapid increase in cases of Men W across England, with students particularly at risk. Protecting young people from this potentially deadly disease as they embark upon one of the most important periods of their lives is vitally important. The vaccination will save lives and prevent lifelong devastating disability.
“We are encouraging all eligible 17 and 18 year-olds who have just left school to get vaccinated – particularly those heading to college or university. Young people and those around them should be alert to the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia. Get vaccinated as soon as possible, remain vigilant and seek urgent medical help if you have concerns for yourself or friends.”
For more information about Meningitis Awareness Week, click here.
For more information on the MenW vaccination click here