Freshers urged to get meningitis vaccination

New university students are being urged to get vaccinated against meningitis before starting their studies.

Leading nurses have called on "freshers" to get the vaccine for group W meningococcal disease (Men W).

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

As a result, health officials added the Men ACWY immunisation to the national immunisation programme in August 2015.

Older teenagers and university students are being encouraged to get the vaccine as they are 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.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said young people who find out they have a place at university this week have only two weeks to get vaccinated in order to be immune frommeningitis in time for the start of term.

The RCN said new students should make an appointment this month to give time for immunity to build before Freshers' Week.

Helen Donovan, public health lead at the RCN, said: "Meningitis can be fatal, and can leave those who survive with life-changing disabilities. Vaccination is quick, easy and free, and offers protection against most strains of the disease, but reaching young people is not easy."

Public Health England said it has already launched this year's campaign to encourage uptake for the vaccine, including messages across Facebook, Instagram and other social media.