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Meningitis vaccine

We recommend that all first year students under the age of 25 receive the meningitis ACWY vaccine before arriving at university.

If you haven't had the vaccine, you're entitled to receive it free of charge from your new Cardiff GP.

We urge you to get the vaccine, as the number of meningococcal W illnesses have risen steeply since 2009. Meningitis can affect anyone, but it's most common in teenagers and young adults.

Meningococcal micro-organisms can live in the back of the throat without causing any problems, but occasionally it can overwhelm the body’s defences and cause infection, resulting in inflammation of the meninges (the meninges cover the brain and spinal cord).

It can develop on its own or occur with septicaemia. Septicaemia develops when the meningitis bacteria increase in the bloodstream and release endotoxins that can cause severe damage. It is the septicaemia that causes the non-blanching rash.

Meningitis/septicaemia can cause:

  • hearing loss
  • total or partial vision loss
  • memory loss
  • problems concentrating
  • kidney problems
  • loss of limbs
  • death.

Why university students are at risk

Students are particularly susceptible to meningitis. This is due to a number of factors, including:

  • living in halls, as they live in close proximity to one another
  • sharing eating utensils and drinking glasses
  • alcohol consumption
  • active or passive smoking
  • overcrowding in pubs and clubs
  • kissing
  • loud music (as people will stand closer to each other and shout over the music).

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms can appear in any order and not everyone will have them all.

Early signs of meningitis include:

  • headache
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • muscle pain.

Severe signs and symptoms include:

  • extreme headache
  • extreme muscle pain
  • photophobia (dislike of bright lights)
  • neck stiffness
  • vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • fever with cold hands and feet
  • drowsiness, difficult to rouse
  • confused and irritable
  • convulsions (fits)
  • depressed level of consciousness leading to coma
  • a rash, which can appear as small red/purple spots or large black/purple bruises, and does not disappear when pressure is applied.

Seeking medical help and advice

If your rash doesn't fade when pressure is applied, call 999 immediately.

If you think you've been exposed to someone with meningitis or want to discuss your symptoms, call NHS Direct Wales or your GP surgery for advice.