Parents of children heading to further education this autumn are being urged to ensure they are safe from deadly meningitis.
UK charity Meningitis Now is calling on mums and dads to make sure their children have been vaccinated against Men ACWY - and what to do if they suspect it.
The charity suggests parents should give students Meningitis Now signs and a symptoms card, fridge magnet or year planner in to raise vital awareness, and to keep an eye on their friends – stressing “they could save their lives”.
Dr Tom Nutt, chief executive of Meningitis Now, said: “Teenagers are the second most at risk group of contracting meningitis after babies and toddlers - and up to a quarter of students carry the bacteria that can cause meningitis, compared to one in ten of the general population.
“It’s vital to be up to date with vaccinations, but these won’t protect your child against all types of the disease.
“Make sure they know the signs and symptoms and that fast action saves lives and improves outcomes.”
He says First year students can be more vulnerable because of cramped living conditions, adding: “In many cases, young people come together from all over the world to live in one place and can be exposed to bacteria and viruses their bodies have not met before. This is why so many new students get ‘freshers’ flu’”.
The charity says every college or university in the country could experience at least one case of meningitis among its students in the first term.
First year students up to the age of 25 can obtain a free vaccination for Men ACWY from their GP, although many will already have received this whilst at school.
But this does not protect them against all strains of the disease and they are unlikely to have been vaccinated against Men B, leaving them at risk from this strain of the disease.
Meningitis Now offers a free information pack for parents and students, including leaflets, signs and symptoms cards, fridge magnets and year planners – all of which contain lifesaving information.
These are available free from www.meningitisnow.org/unis
The early signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia can be similar to ‘flu, a tummy bug or hangover and include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain and stomach cramps with cold hands and feet.
More specific signs and symptoms include fever with cold hands and feet, drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, aversion to bright lights and a rash which doesn’t fade under pressure.