Meningitis Now staff member Andy Hopkinson

Students - learn the signs and symptoms of meningitis

Andy Hopkinson | 17th March 2022

We’re urging university students across the UK to take a few minutes to learn the signs and symptoms of the disease – as cases rise to pre-Covid pandemic levels

Meningitis Now urge students to learn signs and symptoms

Every university in the UK could experience at least one case of meningitis amongst its students this term, we’re warning. 

If students fall ill, the temptation might be for them to think they have Covid-19 or a hangover, but it could be something else, including meningitis.

Meningitis is a medical emergency, so it's vital to recognise the signs and symptoms, act fast and seek medical assistance.

Another case

Our chief executive Dr Tom Nutt said: “We know there are cases happening across the country – we heard of another one at a UK university just last week – and every case is one case too many. 

“So today, we’re asking university students to keep meningitis in mind, learn the signs and symptoms and to look out for themselves and their friends.”

Tom added: "The early signs and symptoms of meningitis can be similar to flu and include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and muscle pain.

"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.

Don’t wait for a rash

"The rash can be a late sign though and may not appear, so our advice is not to wait for a rash."

If meningitis is suspected seek urgent medical help by contacting your GP or calling 111.

During the pandemic, lockdowns used to curb the spread of Covid-19 also led to a decline in other infectious diseases. Meningitis rates were at a historic low until September last year.

Since then, however, there has been an increase in MenB cases among adolescents and young adults in England, ‘particularly in university students’.

Of the Invasive Meningococcal Disease (IMD) cases confirmed among the 15 to 19 and 20 to 24-year-old age groups in September to November 2021, 84.6% (22/26) were students registered at a further or higher education institution. 

Feared a rebound

Dr Nutt added: “We always feared there might be a rebound against the historically low figures for meningococcal infection we have been seeing during the pandemic, whilst hoping there would not be. 

“We are already working hard to spread awareness messages within universities.

Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself against meningitis. But, with teenagers and young people being far more likely to carry the bacteria that can cause meningococcal disease and as most students will not have been vaccinated against MenB, it is vital they remain extra vigilant, know what to look for and seek urgent medical advice if they or one of their friends becomes ill.”

We have free information for parents and young people and lifesaving signs and symptoms cards. Find out more here.

Anyone affected or with any questions and concerns can contact our Helpline on 0808 80 10 388 or email helpline@meningitisnow.org.

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