Students urged to have brain bug vaccine

Alisha Bartolini
Alisha Bartolini

A charity is urging all Wigan students to make themselves aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis before returning to university.

Meningitis Now is warning that cases of the killer disease peak in the winter months and students, who are a high risk group, heading back after the Christmas and New Year break to make themselves aware and to take up a free vaccine.

These steps could help prevent deaths, such as that of Alisha Bartolini from Appley Bridge who died aged 18 of meningococcal group C (Men C) during her first term at Liverpool Hope University in November 2014.

Her devastated mum Michaela has previously urged parents to ensure their teenagers get vaccinated as part of the NHS Men ACWY programme.

Meningitis and septicaemia can affect anyone, of any age, at any time. However, babies and young children are most at risk, and young people between 15 and 24 years are also a higher 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.

Rachel added: “Prevention is also vital 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.

Meningitis is usually caused by bacteria or viruses;

Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord;

Septicaemia is blood poisoning;

Some bacteria that cause meningitis also cause septicaemia;

Meningitis and septicaemia often happen together – it is vital to know all the signs and symptoms;

In babies, symptoms can also include being floppy and unresponsive, dislike of being handled, rapid breathing, an unusual, moaning cry and a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on the top of the head).

For details on Men ACWY and to request free signs and symptoms cards or download the app visit www.MeningitisNow.org or the charity’s student website, https://www.meningitisnow.org/fight-for-now