Published Tuesday 6 September 2016 at 9:47
Young people from Blackburn with Darwen who are due to start College or University are being urged to get vaccinated against meningitis and septicaemia.
The call from Public Health bosses comes as cases of MenW – one of the most aggressive and deadly strains of meningitis – have been increasing nationally year-on-year, from 22 cases in 2009 to nearly 200 cases in the past 12 months.
There are a number of strains of the infection and the vaccination gives protection against four of them– MenA, MenC, MenW and MenY. These illnesses can be deadly and survivors are often left with life-changing disabilities.
Young people going on to university or college are particularly at risk of meningitis and septicaemia because they mix with so many other students, some of whom are unknowingly carrying the bacteria.
GPs have written to the following groups to encourage them to get vaccinated at their surgery as soon as possible:
- All 17 and 18 year olds (school year 13; born between 1/9/1997 to 31/08/1998)
- 19-year-olds who missed getting vaccinated last year (anyone born between 1/9/1996 to 31/08/1997)
Anyone aged up to 25 who is starting university is also urged to get vaccinated by their GP. This should take place ideally before term starts to ensure immunity. But anyone can still get the jab from their new GP in their college town.
Councillor Brian Taylor, Assistant Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said:
Since 2009, there has been a rapid increase in cases of Men W 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.
Dr Gifford Kerr, Consultant in Public Health for Blackburn with Darwen Council, said:
This disease can develop suddenly and progress rapidly. Early symptoms include headache, vomiting, muscle pain, fever, and cold hands and feet. Students should be alert to the signs and symptoms and should not wait for a rash to develop before seeking medical attention urgently. Students are also encouraged to look out for their friends, particularly if they go to their room unwell.
The vaccine not only protects those who are vaccinated, but also helps control the spread of the disease among the wider population.