Meningitis jab warning for university freshers
NEW STUDENTS AT RISK OF INFECTION
AN ENGINEERING graduate who survived meningitis and septicaemia as a teenager is urging students to get a lifesaving vaccine after his brush with the deadly diseases.
Tom Parker, of Washington, spent two weeks in hospital after being diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis – a serious infection of the thin lining of the brain and spinal cord.
He was just 18 at the time and is encouraging young people to book an appointment to get their free MenACWY vaccine.
The MenACWY vaccination programme was introduced in 2015 following a rapid rise in a new and very deadly type of meningitis – meningococcal W meningitis and septicaemia (MenW), identified by MRF’s Meningococcus Genome Library.
Tom, now 22, said: “My first symptoms were a severe headache in the late afternoon, followed by a high temperature, shivering and sickness, and by 7am a rash that looked like bruises spreading from my upper body.
“One hour later I was being treated in intensive care in hospital.
“I was in hospital for nearly two weeks but thankfully I pulled through.
“However I have been left with scarring on my arms and legs.”
Tom, who graduated from Nottingham University with a masters in architecture and engineering, is now raising awareness about the deadly infection in the North East.
He is being supported by his dad Ged, mum Christine and sisters Eleanor and Alice, who are now all trained as Ambassadors for Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF).
Teenagers are a high risk age group for meningitis and septicaemia and freshers are particularly high risk because they mix with so many other students, some of whom are unknowingly carrying the bacteria.
Only 33% of school leavers had taken up the MenACWY in 2016.
Tom, who is speaking out as part of Meningitis Awareness Week, said: “I can’t stress enough how important it is for all young people to get their free vaccine to give themselves some protection against this terrible disease.”
The two diseases can develop suddenly and progress rapidly. Eleanor, left, Ged, Christine and Alice with Tom at his graduation
Early symptoms include headache, vomiting, limb pain, fever, cold hands and feet.
Ged said they were “lucky” his son was treated to so quickly.
He added: “He was given antibiotics in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. “I’m sure that’s what saved his life. “Unfortunately for some patients with meningitis or septicaemia there is a delay in detection and treatment, and it’s those patients who are left with much worse after effects and sadly, some don’t make it.
“We’ll forever be grateful for the quick treatment Tom received.”
Students should ideally get vaccinated more than two weeks before starting university, but they can still get the MenACWY vaccine once they start across most of the UK. Vinny Smith, chief executive of MRF, said: “By getting the free meningitis vaccine, young people are not only protecting themselves from a potentially deadly disease, but also protecting others by stopping the spread. “It’s important to remember that this vaccine doesn’t prevent all types of meningitis, so it’s vital for students away from home to watch out for their friends if they’re unwell. “If they have meningitis it can be like a very bad hangover that quickly gets worse. It can be deadly, so act fast and get medical help.” MRF’s eligibility checker makes it easy for anyone to find out if they are eligible to get the MenACWY vaccine free: www.meningitis.org/oneshot university