In such strange and unprecedented times, with the spotlight constantly on Covid-19, it can be easy for us to misidentify certain medical symptoms or to forget that other viruses and diseases can render us unwell – sometimes severely unwell. One of these potentially life-threatening ailments is Meningitis.
Did you know?
Over 12% of all cases of meningococcal disease occur in the 14 – 24 year old age group and first year university students may be particularly at risk.
University students like yourselves can be more vulnerable due to living closely with new people. In many cases young people come together from all over the country, and 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 ‘fresher’s flu’.
The early symptoms of meningitis are similar to many other common things, such as the flu, or maybe a hangover, so it’s easy to mistake meningitis for something else.
Meningitis (swelling of the lining of the brain) has many different causes, including infections with bacteria and viruses. Bacterial meningitis is the most serious type. Infection with the meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis and/or septicaemia (blood poisoning) and is known as meningococcal disease.
Signs and Symptoms
The meningococcal vaccine does not protect against all causes of meningitis and septicaemia. That is why it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. Early signs are often mild and similar to those you get with flu or a hangover. They can include:
- Muscle pain
- Stomach cramps
- Fever with cold hands and feet
Get medical help urgently if any of the following symptoms develop:
- severe dislike of light
- disorientation, irritability, confusion, difficult to wake
- a rash that doesn't fade under pressure - this may look like pin-pricks or bruises (do the Glass Test)
- decreased consciousness, progressing to coma.
- convulsions (fits)
Not everyone will have all signs and symptoms and they can appear in any order. If you or a friend develop some of these symptoms or feel worried don't delay, get help straight away. For more information, please visit the Meningitis Now website.
You can find out more about Meningitis signs and symptoms from this video:
The Glass Test
If someone has developed a rash, you can do the glass test. Press the side of a glass firmly against the rash, you will be able to see if it fades and loses colour under the pressure. The rash of meningococcal disease does not fade. If the rash doesn't change colour, contact your doctor or go to the nearest Accident and Emergency Department immediately.
Please note: Most of the above information has been taken from the Meningitis Now website.
Information for International Students
If you are an International Student it important that you try to get vaccinated before you travel to the UK. If you have travelled to the UK already and have yet to be vaccinated please make sure you register with a doctor who can discuss this with you further.
More information regarding vaccines can be found below.
In the University
If you are in a University residence you must contact a member of staff your hall warden or manager immediately if you suspect that you or a friend has meningococcal disease (meningitis/septicaemia). They will contact the emergency services, if necessary. If they are unavailable or you live in private accommodation, contact the emergency services yourself, by dialling 999.
- Student Health and Wellbeing has qualified counsellors if you are worried about a friend who has been admitted to hospital with meningitis and you want to talk.
- The Student Advice Centre provides a free and confidential professional advice and support service.
- The University Chaplains are happy to talk to people of different religious groups.
Outside the University
- If you are able to, visit or contact your doctor.
- NHS Direct for non-emergency advice: 0845 4647
- Any accident and emergency unit.
- The Health Protection Agency provides advice and support about specific cases or incidents. If you have a specific query contact them on 0844 225 3550.
- Meningitis Research Foundation call 0808 800 3344 (free phone 24-hour help line)
- Meningitis Now - 0800 028 1828 (24-hour help line)
There are a number of vaccines that are available which can prevent some types of meningitis. The majority of these vaccines are available as part of the UK routine immunisation schedule.
However, not all variations of Meningitis can be prevented by these vaccines. For more information on meningitis vaccines, please click here.
It is important to remember that no one is immune to meningitis and if you suspect yourself or someone you know of having meningitis don’t hesitate to seek help.