Advice line: meningitis alert

Know the signs and symptoms of meningitis, says Tom Nutt.

With the new university year fast approaching for physiotherapy students, we’re appealing to all parents to ensure their teenage children are aware of the dangers of meningitis. Meningitis can strike anyone at any time but teenagers are the second most at risk group, after babies and toddlers and up to a quarter of students carry the bacteria that can cause it, compared to one in ten of the general population.
More than 12 per cent of all cases occur in the 14-24 age group, with first year students being at particular risk.
Vaccines are the only way to protect against it. A free vaccine for Men ACWY [meningococcal (Men) A, C, W and Y] was introduced in August 2015 for all 17 and 18 year olds and all university entrants, aged 19-25,  to combat the rise in Men W cases. The Men ACWY vaccine is given by a single injection into the upper arm and protects against four strains of the meningococcal bacteria that cause meningitis and septicaemia. 
Despite the introduction of Men ACWY, the number of cases in England continues to increase, from 30 in 2011-12 to 210 last year (2015-16), up from 176 the previous year. That’s why we’re urging those eligible to see their GP or the health centre on campus to get their vaccination and parents to make sure their teenage children are protected. No one should be left counting the cost of inaction when there is a quick and effective vaccination freely available.
Students should also carry one of our signs and symptoms cards to raise awareness of the disease and take the first steps in protecting themselves and their friends.
The wallet-sized cards outline the symptoms of the disease – including fever, headache, vomiting, muscle pain and a fever, with cold hands and feet.
Knowing the signs and symptoms and taking prompt action if meningitis is suspected saves lives. Rapid diagnosis and treatment improve outcomes. To request a card or download a free app, visit our website here or call our freephone helpline on 0808 8010388. 
Dr Tom Nutt chief executive, Meningitis Now

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