Students: get the Meningitis vaccine

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The Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging school leavers and first-time university students to get the new meningococcal vaccine.

Through a new immunisation programme, everyone born between 2 July 1996 and 1 July 1997, and first time university students up to the age of 25, will be offered the Men ACWY vaccine.

Health Minister Simon Hamilton said: “This vaccination helps protect against four different causes of meningitis and septicaemia – meningococcal A, C, W and Y diseases.”

MenW was rare in the UK but there has been an increase in recent years.

From January 2016, the vaccination will also start to be rolled out to all 14-18-year-olds through the schools immunisation programme and GPs.

It is still important to know the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia and seek medical help immediately if you, or someone you know, experiences them.

Look out for any of these symptoms:

Fever, cold hands and feet

Vomiting and diarrhoea

Drowsiness, difficult to wake up

Irritability and/or confusion

Dislike of bright lights

Severe headache or muscle pains

Pale, blotchy skin with or without a rash

Convulsions/seizures

Stiff neck.

Meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning). Both diseases are very serious and, especially if not diagnosed early, they can kill.

The early symptoms of meningococcal disease are similar to those of flu, so you need to be able to recognise the symptoms very quickly even if you have been vaccinated as the vaccines offered through the routine immunisation programme do not protect against all forms of the disease.

There are five main groups of meningococcal bacteria that can cause meningitis and septicaemia – A, B, C, W and Y. The same bacteria that cause these serious diseases can also be carried in the back of the nose and throat, especially in young adults.