By Hannah McDonagh
UNIVERSITIES IN Leeds are urging students to get vaccinated after a teenager died from meningitis in Newcastle.
The 19-year-old woman, who has not been named, had just started a course at Northumbria University when she contracted the deadly “group W” strain of the disease last month.
Since the incident universities across the UK have been encouraging students to get the MenACWY injection.
Priscilla Preston, director of services for students at Leeds Beckett University, said: “The safety and wellbeing of our students is at the heart of everything we do at Leeds Beckett University and we support students with a range of information related to meningitis, before they enrol and throughout their studies.
“This includes information on how to register with a local doctor, how to spot the signs and symptoms of meningitis and the importance of looking after both themselves and their housemates.”
The University of Leeds also gives out information before and throughout the university year to remind their students to get immunised against the virus. Leeds Trinity University has also been handing out information leaflets.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said: “We’ve introduced this vaccine because of a rapid increase in cases of MenW across England, with new students particularly at risk.
“This vaccination is highly effective and can save lives and prevent devastating, lifelong disability. I strongly urge those who haven’t done so to get their injection now. If you’re not registered with a GP yet at university, get registered and get your jab.”
According to the charity Meningitis Now, cases of Meningococcal Meningitis W have increased by 809 per cent in the past five years.
The W strain has a higher death rate than other types of the bug.
This summer, the Meningitis Research Foundation started a campaign ahead of the new university term, using the hashtag #StopTheSpread.
But the charity said only 17 per cent of all 18-year-olds – not just those going to university – had been vaccinated by the end of last month, according to data from GP surgeries.
Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of MRF, said: “We’re encouraging students to get this free meningitis vaccine from their GP.
“You’re not only protecting yourself from a potentially deadly disease, but also protecting others by stopping the spread.
“It’s also vital to watch out for your friends if they’re unwell. If they 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.”
According to Meningitis Now, up to a quarter of students carry the bacteria that can cause meningitis compared to one in ten of the general population. Over 12 per cent of all cases occur in the 14 to 24 age group, with first year students being at particular risk.
For more information about symptoms and vaccines click http://www.meningitis.org/.