We’re calling on mums and dads to ensure that their children have been vaccinated against Men ACWY and that they also know the signs and symptoms of the disease and what to do if they suspect it.
As thousands of students receive their A-level results and prepare for their journeys into higher education, we’ve launched our campaign targeting parents with meningitis information and calling on them to ‘Do one last thing for your children before they go off to university – help keep them meningitis safe.’
Pack a signs and symptoms card
We’re telling them to pack one of our signs and symptoms cards, fridge magnets or year planners in their child’s bag to raise vital awareness and to keep an eye on their friends – they could save their lives.
Dr Tom Nutt, our Chief Executive, said, “Teenagers are the second most at-risk group of contracting meningitis after babies and toddlers - and up to a quarter of students carry the bacteria that can cause meningitis, compared to one in ten of the general population."
“It’s vital to be up to date with vaccinations but these won’t protect your child against all types of the disease."
“Make sure they know the signs and symptoms and that fast action saves lives and improves outcomes.”
Freshers can be vulnerable
University freshers can be more vulnerable because of cramped living conditions. In many cases, young people come together from all over the world to live in one place and can be exposed to bacteria and viruses their bodies have not met before. This is why so many new students get ‘freshers’ flu’.
Every university in the UK could experience one case of meningitis among its students within the first term.
First year students up to the age of 25 can obtain a free vaccination for Men ACWY from their GP, although many will already have received this whilst at school. But this does not protect them against all strains of the disease and they are unlikely to have been vaccinated against Men B, leaving them at risk from this strain of the disease.
Support from parents
The charity’s campaign is being supported by Bristol mother Michelle Bresnahan, who lost her 16-year-old son Ryan to Men B in 2010.
Since then she has campaigned tirelessly alongside her university student daughter Charlotte to raise awareness so that more young people can be protected, raising thousands through a Life for a Cure, the charity set up in Ryan’s memory.
Michelle said, “I know only too well how devastating this disease can be and have seen the worst it can do, destroying young lives and tearing apart those who remain."
“No-one should be left counting the cost of inaction – I’m appealing to all parents to act now to ensure their children are safe.”
The early signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia can be similar to ‘flu, tummy bug or a hangover and include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, stomach cramps and fever with cold hands and feet. More specific signs and symptoms include fever with cold hands and feet, drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights and a rash which doesn’t fade under pressure.
Later in the autumn our awareness campaign will also target universities and new students directly.
Public Health England reports that there were 747 cases of meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia in England last year, with 18% of cases occurring in young adults aged 15 to 24. Of those who contract bacterial meningitis one in ten will die and one in three survivors will be left with life-changing after-effects.
Download our Signs and Symptoms app.