Teenagers in Burton and South Derbyshire are putting themselves at risk of meningitis if they do not take up the offer of a vaccine against the disease, nurses have warned.
Teenagers, sixth form students and university “freshers” are being encouraged to take up the jab before heading to university where the infection can thrive among students mixing closely with lots of new people.
In England, young people under 25 who are heading to university for the first time are eligible to receive a free meningitis ACWY vaccination which has shown to significantly protect against the deadly disease.
However, only one-third of youngsters in the UK are taking advantage of the lifesaving offer, according to the Royal College of Nursing.
Charlotte Hannibal, from Nottingham, is just one example of how devastating the disease can be.
The 21-year-old became seriously ill with group W meningococcal septicaemia back in February 2015.
While in her first year at Nottingham Trent University, the then-18-year-old left a lecture early with a ‘hangover’' only weeks later she had to have her legs amputated below the knee.
"I left one of my lectures early with a sore throat, headache and tiredness; similar to having a bad hangover," she told sister title The Mirror.
"But 48 hours after my first symptoms, I was in hospital and doctors realised my body was shutting down. I spent three months in hospital."
"In that time, I lost part of my hearing, dealt with kidney failure, dialysis, and had both my legs amputated below the knee, along with all my fingers from my left hand," Charlotte said.
"I’m making progress every day now, but I’m encouraging everyone starting university this year to get vaccinated so they don’t have to go through what I have."
Staff at the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust, an organisation which provides community health services, are urging A-level students to take up the free vaccine before heading off to university next month.
Zoe Warren, professional leader for school nursing at the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership Trust, said: "I would strongly advise all new students attending university to be vaccinated against meningitis ACWY.
"Meningitis and septicaemia are serious and can be deadly. New university students are at a higher risk of infection due to mixing closely with lots of new people.
"The meningitis ACWY vaccine is very effective in preventing illness caused by the four meningococcal strains. The vaccines have been used for many years across the world and have an excellent safety record."
Julie Roberts, team leader for the school aged immunisation team at the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership Trust, added: "The cases of meningitis and blood poisoning, or septicaemia, caused by a highly virulent strain of Men W bacteria have been rising since 2009.
"I would advise anyone eligible, students under the age of 25 years, for the Meningitis ACWY to have it even if they have previously had the meningitis C vaccine; the school aged immunisation team offers the vaccination in schools.
"If you have not had the meningitis ACWY vaccination and are starting university, protect yourself by booking an appointment with your GP. Students will need to telephone and book an appointment with their GP for the vaccination."
What is Meningitis?
According to the NHS, meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes which surround the brain and spinal cord.
Symptoms of meningitis include:
- A high temperature of 38C or above;
- Being sick;
- A headache;
- A blotchy rash that doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it;
- A stiff neck;
- A dislike of bright lights;
- Drowsiness or unresponsiveness; and
Meningitis is usually caught from people who carry the viruses or bacteria in their nose or throat but aren’t necessarily ill themselves.
Vaccinations against meningitis
- meningitis B vaccine – offered to babies aged eight weeks, followed by a second dose at 16 weeks, and a booster at one year
- 6-in-1 vaccine – offered to babies at eight, 12 and 16 weeks of age
- pneumococcal vaccine – offered to babies at eight weeks, 16 weeks and one year old
- meningitis C vaccine – offered at 12 weeks of age, one year, and to teenagers and first-time university students
- MMR vaccine – offered to babies at one year and a second dose at three years and four months
- meningitis ACWY vaccine – offered to teenagers, sixth formers and "fresher" students going to university for the first time