First year university students urged to get MenC vaccine

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Monday, December 22nd, 2014
Community
The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging all first year university students who haven’t yet had their meningococcal C vaccine – better known as MenC, to get it as soon as possible. MenC protects against infection by meningococcal group C bacteria, which can cause two very serious illnesses, meningitis and septicaemia that occur mainly in young children and young adults. The MenC vaccination programme is aimed at anyone who is aged under 25 years of age and attending university for the first time. This vaccination programme has now been extended until March to allow more students to avail of the MenC vaccine. Dr Richard Smithson, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, urging students to get the vaccine as soon as possible, said, “This summer the MenC vaccine was offered for the first time to university students as they are more at risk of getting meningitis just after starting university as they will be mixing closely with lots of new people, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria. “It is therefore important that students who have just started university this year have the vaccination to protect them against the disease.” Any students who didn’t receive the MenC vaccine prior to starting university can now avail of the catch-up programme by contacting their GP surgery and telling them that they have just started university and need the MenC vaccination. Dr Smithson continued, “Although the programme has been extended until March, we know that meningococcal disease is more common in the winter, so it is important to get vaccinated soon and make sure you are protected in time. “However, the MenC vaccine does not protect against meningitis caused by meningococcal group B bacteria, so it’s important for students to be aware of the symptoms of meningitis.” They can appear in any order and may include:
• a high temperature and /or vomiting; • cold hands and feet; • severe headache; • a stiff neck, aching limbs and joints; • a dislike of bright lights; • drowsiness or purple rash, which does not fade when pressed.
“Coming into the colder months there is a tendency to see more cases of meningococcal disease, which is why it is particularly important for everyone to familiarise themselves with the signs and symptoms. He added, “Symptoms of meningococcal disease are often non-specific and easily mistaken for other illnesses, such as flu in the early stages. The disease can, however, come on very quickly and it is important to seek urgent medical attention if you think meningitis is occurring.” Further information on meningitis can be found at: www.meningitisuk.org

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