Rosie Heaton

Get protected this student week

Rosie 25th October 2017

As a new intake of first years prepare to take the plunge into University life and all the new experiences that come with it; I, like many of my fellow final years, feel jealousy that I can’t be in their shoes repeating the fun of Fresher’s week over and over again

Student Week Rosie
But there is also a part of me that feels unsettled, and slightly anxious. It’s not overwhelming, but it’s there.

You see, I’ve had meningitis and I know how it can truly change a life in an instant. Meningitis and the affect it had on me, my friends and my family, is a big part of who I am.  It has shaped my life, and the person I have become.

As a fresher, I felt it was time to escape the constraints that the disease had placed on my life, yet it stared me right in the face once more. Why? I was surrounded by posters telling me to get a vaccine, letters and calls from GPs and awareness posters telling me to look out for the symptoms of flu.  Because although I had meningitis as a child, I had now entered the age group where I was at risk again.

I am writing this to share one message, one plea – to encourage you to get vaccinated.

Meningitis just loves students. Run down, away from home, not eating or sleeping properly and most of all, having fun.  The perfect place for even a rare disease like meningitis to rear its ugly head. But it is rare, and there are ways we can protect ourselves.

I know my fear is irrational, but it’s based on experience and my heart sinks when I read about yet another case of meningitis where another life has been taken, sometimes in just a few hours, or another life changed forever. Luckily, there are things you can do to help protect yourself and your friends from meningitis.

There are many different strains of meningitis. Luckily, if you’re a first year student under the age of 25 you can receive a vaccine to protect against four of these strains (A,C,W & Y), free of charge from your GP.

Shockingly only 33% of first time students have taken this up. The process is simple, and the most taxing thing is probably getting round to actually making the appointment in the first place, but then it is done.  One less thing to worry about when it comes to partying your way through Freshers'.

Another thing you can do is carry a Meningitis Now signs and symptoms card, which is a small, purse sized card explaining what you need to look out for.

Meningitis is sneaky, sometimes even disguising itself as a hangover, with its flu-like symptoms masking the enormity of what is truly going on within a body. By having the disease on your radar, you can protect yourself by ensuring speedy diagnosis and therefore treatment, minimising your risk of after effects.

You really have no excuse not to do this – they’re free and easy to carry.  There is even an app equivalent of the cards, meaning all you need to know can sit nicely between Messenger and Twitter on your phone. Hopefully you’ll never need to use it. 

As much as we like to think it as students, we’re not invincible.  Meningitis can break hearts and ruin lives. While there are vaccines available, they don’t protect against every strain of meningitis and it’s so important to be vigilant of the symptoms by looking out for yourself and your friends.