Meningitis Advice

October 2, 2015

There has been a recent case of meningitis in Halls. Please see the FAQ’s below for more information.

Meningitis | new information and mythbusters

You’ll know from updates on UniLife and our social media that there has been a confirmed case of meningitis at USW this week.

We are sure that you’ll be pleased to hear that the student affected is recovering.

We want to make sure you have all the information to keep yourself healthy and answer the questions you’ll inevitably have. We work really closely with the NHS, and Public Health Wales, so the advice we’re giving you is what you need to know from the health professionals. The following advice is also being made available on UniLife and our social media channels.

There’s also an excellent source of information on meningitis is available on the Meningitis Now website.

Some questions which the University has been asked:

1. Am I at risk?

The risk of falling ill with meningitis is very low. However, as the illness is serious and can be dangerous to those who catch it, the University and Public Health Wales respond to any cases with every possible measure to prevent others falling ill.

Statistically, meningitis is most likely to affect babies, or students because they’ve just moved into shared accommodation as they start university.

2. How do I know if I’ve had contact with the student who has meningitis?

Meningococcal bacteria, which cause Meningitis, are only passed on by close and regular or prolonged contact. Public Health Wales has already contacted all individuals known to have been in close, regular or prolonged contact with the student who has fallen ill. If you have not been contacted by Public Health Wales, you are not likely to be at higher risk than any other member of the general public.

3. What are the symptoms?

See https://www.meningitisnow.org/meningitis-explained/signs-and-symptoms/signs-and-symptoms-children-and-adults/

4. Should I have a vaccination?

If you are under 25 years old and a new student, then you should either have had a recent (booster) vaccination, or, if you haven’t, you should get one.

If you are over 25 years old or a returning student, you probably do not need a vaccination.

5. If I’ve had the vaccine and booster, am I safe?

You are safer with the vaccine than without. However, the most common form of meningitis is not the one that would be tackled by the vaccine you’d have had. In other words, you should still be aware of the symptoms and contact a doctor if you suspect meningitis because of your symptoms.

There are three vaccines, two of which are available on the NHS.

· Meningitis C (followed by a Meningitis C Booster)

· Meningitic ACWY

· Meningitis B

If you grew up in the UK, you would almost certainly have been vaccinated against Meningitis C as a baby.

For the past few years, teenagers have also been given Meningitis C Booster vaccines in secondary school. As of autumn 2015, that booster vaccine would take the form of a Meningitis ACWY vaccine, which also protects against Meningitis W, a strain which has been growing in the UK over the past few years. If you have had a booster vaccine before 2015, you could contact your GP to ask whether you’ve had the ACWY vaccine, and if not, you could ask your GP for advice on whether it’s worth getting the ACWY vaccine as well.

There is also a brand new vaccine against Meningitis B (the most common strain of meningitis in the UK), which is now being issued to babies. This is not available to teenagers or adults on the NHS at this stage, as there have not been sufficient long term studies to demonstrate its effectiveness in adults. However, the Meningitis B vaccine can be obtained privately and through travel vaccination clinics, at a charge.

6. My GP has told me that I don’t need a vaccination. Why?

There are several possible reasons.

· If you are over 25 years old, you are not in the 'at risk’ demographic

· If you have been living in shared accommodation for years, you are probably not at risk

· The vaccinations take about two weeks for the protection to take effect, so vaccinations after university has started offer less protection that vaccinations before the start of term.

· Your GP may not have been fully stocked with vaccines

7. Can I get the vaccine from the USW Health Service?

You may be able to get vaccinated by the GPs who offer on-campus appointments, if you are registered with their particular GP surgeries. The way the NHS deals with this process means that the nurses working in the USW Health Service aren’t the people who do this vaccination.

8. Why should I register with a GP?

You should register with a GP near your term address so, should you fall ill during your studies, you have a doctor to go to for treatment (and/or any support if you need extenuating circumstances). It’s important to register with a GP as soon as you can: you don’t want to have to phone every practice in your area to see if they take on new patients when you are already ill.

9. Why should I register with the USW Health Service?

The nurses can see you about a variety of health matters on campus. Once the very busy start of term is done, you will generally be able to see a nurse very quickly – probably much sooner than you could get an appointment with a doctor.

Other benefits include sexual health clinics, free condom schemes, advice and assistance with registering with GP clinics and dentists, and more.

Mythbusters
1.I’ve heard I need a special letter from my student hall to get a vaccine from my GP…

That isn’t so. If you belong to the 'at risk’ group, your GP should vaccinate you if they have stock of the vaccine. Only a small number of students – who had been in contact with the student who had meningitis – have been issued with letters by Public Health Wales. The University doesn’t issue letters for all halls residents.

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