Your health won’t be at the front of your mind when starting uni – there are so many things to prioritise, including which sports societies to join, where the Student union bar is located, getting to know each other and, of course, your studies.
However, as a fresher you particularly vulnerable to some types of meningitis. The simple fact that you will be one of hundreds, if not thousands, of people coming together to live in close proximity to share your student experiences adds to your vulnerability.
A rise in cases of Men W has led to the introduction of the ACWY in the UK. The vaccine is free on the NHS for all 17 to 18-year-olds and university fresher’s (aged 19 to 25).
Vaccines do not prevent all types of meningitis so you still need to know the signs and symptoms to look out for; identifying meningitis is not always easy. Early symptoms can be missed or mistaken for something else, including flu or hangovers - especially at the start of term when so many students are suffering from ‘fresher’s’ flu’. Symptoms can include sickness, fever, cold hands and feet, muscle pain, headaches, confusion, irritability, a rash and dislike of bright lights – sound familiar?
Meningitis Now Young Ambassador, Jacob Gray contracted meningitis in 2013 during his first year at university. He spent a total of 699 days in hospital and lost both legs below the knee as a result of the disease.
“My condition deteriorated very quickly. My parents were told I had a 10% chance of survival and I was expected to have permanent brain damage."
“I underwent extensive physical and occupational therapies to help rebuild my strength however over the next year I became frustrated with how slowly I was progressing. I was still unable to walk or stand on my feet without enduring excruciating pain. That’s when I made the decision to have my legs amputated below the knee."
“My progression is slow but continually improving. My strength is increasing and walking is getting easier. My experience has given me a new perspective on life but I would never willingly endure it again, and if there is any way I can prevent even one other person from having to go through what I have, I will."
“All first year uni students should make the time to get the vaccine and to look out for each other’s well-being. If one of your classmates is in bed ill; make sure to check on them regularly. Trust your instincts - if you know somethings not right and suspect the disease, call for immediate medical help. Not everyone will get a rash, so you should always be aware of all the signs and symptoms.”
Jacob Gray, Young Ambassador