Menin­gi­tis jab warn­ing for univer­sity fresh­ers

NEW STU­DENTS AT RISK OF IN­FEC­TION

Sunday Sun - - News - By Kali Lindsay Reporter kali.lindsay@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

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

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