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Raising Awareness

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Some bacteria that cause meningitis can also cause septicaemia (blood poisoning).

Meningitis Now student awareness week

Meningococcal bacteria are the most common cause of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in the UK.

Meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia can be fatal in 5-10% of cases. Those who survive may be left with life-changing after-effects, such as hearing loss, brain injury and limb loss. Early recognition and treatment can help save lives and reduce the likelihood of after-effects.

Meningitis can affect anyone at any time. However, university students, especially those in their first year, are at increased risk. It is vital that staff and students are aware of the common signs and symptoms to look out for and the action to take if they are concerned. Have a look at our video here for more information.

The signs and symptoms of meningitis

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Why are students more vulnerable?

  • Meningococcal bacteria are passed from person to person by coughing, sneezing and intimate kissing
  • Adolescents and young adults are more likely, than the general population, to be carrying meningococcal bacteria in the back of their throats. In most cases, this does not cause illness and can help to build natural immunity. However, in an age group where more people are carrying the bacteria, there will be more disease
  • Freshers are encountering many new people to study, live and socialise together. They are likely to be living in cramped student accommodation
  • Increased social interaction amongst students means that bacteria and viruses, which they have not previously been exposed to, can be passed on more easily. This is why many new students get ‘freshers’ flu’
  • University is often the first-time young people will live away from their parents and their own health and wellbeing is not always a priority. With no parents to keep an eye on their health, the early signs of meningitis may be missed or mistaken for a hangover or freshers’ flu

We can provide a range of free printed and digital resources for you to raise awareness with students at key points in the year.

Before students arrive at the university

  • Promote meningitis and vaccine awareness at student open days. This is a great opportunity to distribute materials to large numbers of prospective students and those accompanying them
  • Information on meningitis and MenACWY vaccination can be sent to students once they have accepted their place. This can be done in a variety of ways including inserts in welcome packs, attachments to emails and messages via social media platforms
  • Add materials and information to freshers’ web pages on your university’s website. This can be useful for those universities who do not send information through the post
  • Printed information such as posters, signs and symptoms cards and fridge magnets can be placed around campus, particularly in areas such as halls of residence, student union bars, canteens and department noticeboards

When students arrive

  • Promote the MenACWY vaccine and ensure that a student’s vaccination status is checked when they are registering with a GP or Health Centre. This can be tricky for those universities who do not have an on-site Health Centre. However, this could be checked at registration or during welcome weekends
  • Include awareness materials at health or fresher’s fairs

How we can help

  • Provide you with awareness materials such as symptoms cards, posters, and fridge magnets, along with digital resources. Order yours here.
  • Our volunteers are keen to help raise awareness. Where possible, we will partner one of our volunteers to your university. Why not get in touch to see if we have a volunteer to work with you: volunteerdevelopment@meningitisnow.org
  • Meningitis Now - Student Awareness Week - a predominantly digital campaign, is held every October. This can be a great time to raise awareness as freshers are settling into student life.
  • If you have any questions regarding meningitis, please contact our nurse-led helpline on 0808 08 10 388 or email: helpline@meningitisnow.org

For more information about meningitis, watch our Meningitis Information for Universities presentation