Students urged to get meningitis vaccination as cases of potentially deadly strain soar

Students going to university this autumn are being urged to get a vaccine against meningitis as a deadly strain is on the rise.

Public Health England says the jab will help protect against a "a highly aggressive strain" of meningitis W.

Meningitis W infection is fatal in one in 10 cases and can lead to long-term health complications including deafness, epilepsy and amputations.

Health experts are warning students the infection "can be like a very bad hangover that quickly gets worse".

Almost 200 people got meningitis W in the last 12 months - compared to just 22 in 2009 in England.

Officials say new students are at risk as they often mix closely with groups of unfamiliar people - some who may unknowingly carry the bug.

Sophie suffered cardiac arrest and major organ failure Credit: ITV News

Last year, student Sophie Royce contracted the strain of meningitis and urged teenagers to get vaccinated.

Sophie suffered cardiac arrest and major organ failure, lost the tips of her fingers and most of her right foot after getting MenW.

She told ITV News at the time: "It's such a vicious disease. I knew what it was before I was ill but I only thought it happened in babies, which is such a big meningitis myth, it can happen to anybody."

Vinny Smith, chief executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation said the infection can seem like a "very bad hangover".

He said: "It's also vital to watch out for your friends if they're unwell. If people do have meningitis it can be like a very bad hangover that quickly gets worse. It can be deadly so act fast and get medical help."

GPs are writing to school leavers to encourage them to get vaccinated, whether they are going to university or not.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: "Since 2009, there has been a rapid increase in cases of MenW 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 ofmeningitis and septicaemia. Get vaccinated as soon as possible, remain vigilant and seek urgent medical help if you have concerns for yourself or friends."