News, Culture & Society

Students must get meningitis vaccination before university

Students are being urged to get themselves vaccinated to protect against meningitis before starting university amid ‘rapid increases’ of cases of the deadly bug on campuses.

Meningitis or meningococcal is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. 

Health leaders in the UK are encouraging soon-to-be university students to get vaccinated to protect against a deadlier strain of meningitis known as group W meningococcal disease (Men W). This strain can cause meningitis and septicaemia. 

Several adults with Men W have had mainly gastrointestinal symptoms but without the typical rash that most people associate with meningitis.

As as a result, they have progressed rapidly to death.  

Cases of meningitis and blood poisoning caused by the highly virulent strain of Men W bacteria increased from 22 cases in England in 2009/10 to 210 in 2015/16. 

Meningococcal in general has spread across the world – with five cases reported in just one week in New South Wales, Australia, in 2016.

The alarm was raised by NSW Health after 39 cases of the invasive disease and four deaths were recorded last year – compared to 27 cases and zero deaths in 2015.   

Between March 2013 and February 2016 there were outbreaks on five US campuses.

In 2015 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approved a vaccine for meningococcal disease – but it was estimated that many of the 20.5 million college students are still not vaccinated. 

 

This infection – which normally starts as a dull ache – is a medical emergency and can lead to death, or long term complications like limb amputations and blindness (stock image)

MENINGITIS FACTS

Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.

This infection causes these membranes (the meninges) to become inflamed, which in some cases can damage the nerves and brain.

It is considered a medical emergency and can lead to death, or long term complications like limb amputations and blindness.

The disease has spread across the world – with five cases were reported in just one week in New South Wales in 2016.

The alarm was raised by NSW Health after 39 cases of the invasive disease and four deaths were recorded last year – compared to 27 cases and zero deaths in 2015.  

In 2015 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approved a vaccine for meningococcal disease – but it was estimated that many of the 20.5 million college students are still not vaccinated.

Between March 2013 and February 2016 there were outbreaks on five US campuses. 

Men W is one of the most aggressive forms

Older teenagers and university students are encouraged to get the vaccine to protect themselves against the deadly bacteria.

This group is thought to be at a higher risk of infection because they mix closely with lots of new people – some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria at the back of their noses and throats. 

Public Health England (PHE) said cases of meningitis and septicaemia caused by the aggressive meningococcal W strain are still rising.

While more than two million eligible young people have received the MenACWY vaccine, some remain unvaccinated, PHE added.

It warned Men W is one of the most aggressive and life-threatening forms of meningococcal disease and can be fatal.

Many survivors are left with life-changing disabilities, including brain damage and loss of limbs.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE said: ‘The MenACWY vaccination programme will save lives and prevent lifelong and devastating disability.

‘We have seen a rapid increase in Men W cases across England in recent years and vaccination is the most effective way of protecting against infection.

‘Young people are particularly at risk from the Men W strain. Being in confined environments with close contact, such as university halls, pubs and clubs increases the chances of infection if unprotected.

Charlotte Hannibal, 21, from Nottingham, had both of her legs amputated as her body was ravaged by meningitis

Charlotte Hannibal, 21, from Nottingham, had both of her legs amputated as her body was ravaged by meningitis

MENINGITIS W: THE FACTS

In the UK, six different strains of bacterial meningitis – A, B, C, W, X, and Y – cause the most disease.

For decades meningococcal B (MenB) has been the main group, and meningococcal C (Men C) was also common until the Men C vaccine was introduced, reducing cases to just a handful each year.

However, cases of meningococcal W (Men W) have risen steadily.

It often has different symptoms to other kinds of meningitis.

Several adults with Men W septicaemia have had mainly gastrointestinal symptoms, but without the typical rash that most people associate with meningitis. As as a result, they have progressed rapidly to death.

University students up to the age of 25 are now offered a vaccine to protect against Men W.

It protects against four different causes of meningitis and septicaemia – meningococcal (Men) A, C, W and Y diseases.

Source: Meningitis Now

People need to get vaccinated 

‘We urge anyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

‘Remain vigilant and seek urgent medical help if you or someone you know may be showing signs of infection.’

Earlier this month, a student who left one of her lectures early with a sore throat ended up fighting for her life after being diagnosed with meningitis.

Charlotte Hannibal, 21, from Nottingham, had both of her legs amputated as her body was ravaged by the deadly infection.

The business student at Nottingham Trent University also lost most of her left hand and the finger tips on her right from the Men W strain.

She said: ‘I left one of my lectures early with a sore throat, headache and tiredness; similar to having a bad hangover. 

‘But 48 hours after my first symptoms, I was in hospital and doctors realised my body was shutting down. I spent three months in hospital.

‘In that time, I lost part of my hearing, dealt with kidney failure, dialysis, and had both my legs amputated below the knee, along with all my fingers from my left hand.

‘I’m making progress every day now, but I’m encouraging everyone starting university this year to get vaccinated so they don’t have to go through what I have.’ 

She has since recovered, but is urging all 'fresher' students starting university this year to get vaccinated so 'they don't have to go through' what she had to

She has since recovered, but is urging all ‘fresher’ students starting university this year to get vaccinated so ‘they don’t have to go through’ what she had to

A mother shared heartbreaking images of her daughter 

Miss Hannibal is now backing calls by leading nurses for ‘fresher’ students to be vaccinated against group W meningococcal before starting university.

She is working with the charity Meningitis Research Foundation to raise awareness of the Men ACWY vaccine since she survived the disease. 

In May an Australian mother shared a heartbreaking timeline of images showing how fast the deadly meningococcal disease infected her daughter.

In May an Australian mother shared a heartbreaking timeline of images showing how fast the deadly meningococcal disease infected her daughter

In May an Australian mother shared a heartbreaking timeline of images showing how fast the deadly meningococcal disease infected her daughter

Jazmyn Parkyn (pictured) contracted the illness when she was aged three and is one of a fortunate group who have managed to recover

Jazmyn Parkyn (pictured) contracted the illness when she was aged three and is one of a fortunate group who have managed to recover

Her mother, Sarah, said it was important other parents see what the early signs look like in hope they too can avoid it being fatal for their child

Her mother, Sarah, said it was important other parents see what the early signs look like in hope they too can avoid it being fatal for their child

Finley underwent four amputations 

Jazmyn Parkyn contracted the illness when she was aged three and is one of a fortunate group who have managed to recover.

Her mother, Sarah, said it was important other parents see what the early signs look like in hope they too can avoid it being fatal for their child.

The timeline shows a small mark on Jazmyn’s chest appear at 9.30am before spreading across her abdomen and down her limbs just a few hours later.

13 hours after her mother’s discovery of the first mark, Jazmyn was covered in a rash from the disease and was fighting for her life.

Her mother says Jazmyn, now five, still suffers from headaches and leg pains which require daily medication.

Two-year-old Finley Amos, from Hereford, underwent four amputations after he contracted meningitis and septicaemia in June.

Two-year-old Finley Amos, from Hereford, underwent four amputations after he contracted meningitis and septicaemia in June

Two-year-old Finley Amos, from Hereford, underwent four amputations after he contracted meningitis and septicaemia in June

His parents have told how, after undergoing the major surgery, the youngster grinned at them - despite loosing part of his limbs (pictured with his parents and half-brother Brandon, 10)

His parents have told how, after undergoing the major surgery, the youngster grinned at them – despite loosing part of his limbs (pictured with his parents and half-brother Brandon, 10)

Yet his parents have told how, after undergoing the major surgery, the youngster grinned at them – despite loosing part of his limbs.

Finley’s father Matt Amos, 39, said: ‘He woke up and looked up at me with a smile and at that point I thought if he can do it then so can we. 

‘He doesn’t let anything hold him back and you have no idea how proud he makes us.’

Finley’s parents Mr Amos and Sarah Bonner, 22, took their son to the GP with suspected tonsillitis after he woke up floppy. 

He was later diagnosed with meningitis and contracted septicaemia in hospital.

For Finley to have any chance of surviving, his parents were told his fingers and toes had to be amputated. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk