Meningitis W: Students warned to get meningitis vaccination

Meningitis cases are on the rise and young people starting college and university this autumn are being urged to get vaccinated against meningitis.
Public Health England says the jab will help protect against meningitis W in particular – a sometimes deadly strain that is on the rise.
Officials say new students are at risk as they will often mix closely with various groups of unfamiliar people – some who may unknowingly carry the bug.

The injection – known as the Men ACWY vaccine – was first introduced for new university students in the UK last year.

‘Highly aggressive’

It protects against the A, C, Y and W strains of the disease – all forms that can cause death or disability.

But health experts say they are particularly concerned about “a highly aggressive strain” of meningitis W bacteria.

22 people caught meningitis W in England in 2009, compared with almost 200 people in the last 12 months.
Meningitis W infection can be fatal in one in 10 cases. It lead to long-term health problems including deafness, epilepsy and amputations.

“In the UK, every university could experience at least one case of meningitis amongst its students within the first term.”

The vaccine is also being rolled out for younger teenagers at school across the UK.


  • Meningitis is an infection of the meninges – the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.
  • Meningococcal bacteria are common and carried harmlessly in the throat and nose by about 1 in 10 people.
  • They are passed on through close contact.
  • Symptoms may include a high fever with cold feet and hands, confusion, agitation, vomiting and headaches.
  • Individuals should not wait for a rash to develop before seeking medical help.

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