University freshers only have two weeks to get vaccinated against ‘deadly’ Meningitis W

The latest figures from Public Health England show cases of Meningitis W  have been increasing year-on-year.

James McKay
17 August 2018
influenza vacine

Student starting university in September are being urged to get vaccinated against Meningitis W.

Nurses are urging young people to get vaccinated against meningitis and septicaemia before starting university in September as cases of deadly W strain continue to rise.


Nurses, who administer the combined MenACWY vaccine, have warned prospective students to make an appointment this month to give time for immunity to build before Freshers’ Week, traditionally held in mid-September.

Fresher are notoriously prone to infections as a multitude of strains of diseases come together.

What is Meningitis W?

According to the Meningitis Research Foundation, meningococcal infections have always been the leading cause of meningitis in the UK.

Cases of meningococcal W (MenW) have risen year on year since 2009 and the first quarter of 2018 alone saw 73 meningitis W cases.


MenW disease is particularly alarming because it is striking mainly healthy people across all age groups, with a marked spike amongst teenagers.

It often has different symptoms to other kinds of meningococcal disease and may present as severe respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, epiglottitis,  supraglottitis or gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting.

MenW can be harder to spot due to symptoms less traditionally associated with meningitis.

Students should see their GP.

Young people can get the vaccine at GP surgeries, often in a dedicated vaccination clinic with a shorter waiting list. It is available at any time of year but new university students are particularly at risk as they enter shared accommodation.


The latest official figures from Public Health England show up to two-thirds of those who turned 18 last year did not receive the jab.

It suggests more than 400,000 school leavers per year in England did not receive the new meningitis vaccine, introduced in 2015, which included protection against the increasingly common W strain for the first time.

School children who previously received the meningitis C vaccine will require the extra catch-up jab.

Freshers are more at risk.

Helen Donovan, Professional Lead for Public Health at the Royal College of Nursing and an expert on vaccination, said:  “Freshers starting university this September are more at risk from meningitis W, a particularly nasty strain that can kill, or leave people with life-changing disabilities.

“Vaccination offers protection against most strains of the disease, and it’s quick, easy and free, but they need to contact their GP in good time. The vaccine can take up to two weeks to become effective.


“Some may have been travelling over summer or working before university. But the risk is real and getting vaccinated saves lives. If you’re not sure you’ve had the vaccine, contact your surgery now and book an appointment with the practice nurse.”

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