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Protect yourself against Meningitis ACWY strains: important information

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We have received a press release from Public Health England urging us to remind parents and students about the MenACWY vaccination against meningococcal disease, which causes meningitis and septicaemia:

• Cases of meningitis and septicaemia caused by the aggressive MenW strain are on the rise;
• The MenACWY vaccine is the best form of protection against these deadly diseases, with a 100% effectiveness rate so far;
• The first 18 months of the MenACWY vaccination programme saw more than 2 million teenagers receive the MenACWY vaccine;
• Those who are due to leave school this summer, or aged 17-18 and are not in school (born between 1 September 1998 and 31 August 1999) are now eligible;
• 18 year olds should be given MenACWY vaccine now by their GP practice;
• In addition, teenagers and young adults who have missed their MenACWY vaccination in previous years are also urged to contact their GP practice;
• Young people are particularly at risk. Living closely together, such as in university halls, hostels when travelling, or attending festivals, increases their chances of infection if unprotected.

The MenACWY jab protects against four strains of meningococcal disease which cause meningitis and septicaemia, known as strains A, C, W and Y. MenW is one of the most aggressive and life-threatening forms, and meningococcal disease can be fatal. Many survivors are left with life-changing disabilities, including brain damage and loss of limbs. The MenACWY vaccine remains the best form of protection against the A, C, W, and Y strains with a 100% effectiveness rate in those that have been vaccinated so far.

Cath Fenton, a Screening and Immunisations Lead in the East of England, says:

“The MenACWY vaccination programme will save lives and prevent lifelong and devastating disability. We have seen a rapid increase in MenW cases across England in recent years, including cases in the East of England, and vaccination is the best way to protect against infection.

“Please get vaccinated as soon as possible, remain vigilant for symptoms and seek urgent medical help if you have concerns for yourself or friends.

“New entrants to higher education (university freshers) are also eligible. Anyone who is eligible and has missed vaccination in previous years remains eligible up to their 25th birthday and is urged to have the MenACWY vaccine.”

Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation http://www.meningitis.org/says:

“If you don’t know whether you are entitled to the free vaccine, our online eligibility checker (see end of email) will make it easy to find out. If everyone who is eligible gets it, this will not only protect them but will also help protect others by stopping the bacteria from spreading.”

Dr Tom Nutt, Chief Executive at the charity Meningitis Now https://www.meningitisnow.org/ says:

“It’s vital that young people and their parents are not complacent about the threat of meningitis, and we urge all those eligible for this life-saving vaccination to arrange to get it today. Meningitis can be a devastating disease, killing one in ten and leaving a third of survivors with lifelong after-effects such as hearing loss, epilepsy, limb loss or learning difficulties.

“With teenagers being a high-risk group, we welcome this timely reminder for parents to ensure their loved ones take this easy step to help protect themselves.”

Other strains of meningitis

While the vaccine helps protect against Men A, C, W and Y, it does not cover all forms of meningococcal disease*. It is therefore important for parents and young people to be vigilant in spotting early symptoms and to seek early medical assistance if they are concerned. Not everyone will develop these symptoms and they can appear in any order but common symptoms may include:
• Pale, blotchy skin with or without a rash
• Irritability and/or confusion
• Severe headache, joint or muscle pains
• Dislike of bright lights
• Stiff neck
• Convulsions/seizures
• Fever, cold hands and feet
• Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
• Drowsiness, difficult to wake up

*Meningitis B (additional information from Long Road Sixth Form College)

As you may be aware, one of our students, Adam Tolfree, developed septicaemia caused by the Meningitis B strain in January 2017 and sadly passed away from the disease. A vaccination against this strain has been introduced in the last couple of years and is currently available for babies under the age of one. the college has spoken to Meningitis Now to clarify why this is the case and to see what parents / students can do. This is the information provided:

• Meningitis B is extremely rare in teenagers and students;
• It is more common in babies;
• It is not always clear why the disease develops in teenagers;
• The effectiveness of the vaccination is still being evaluated for use for teenagers. The vaccination is safe for all age groups but, being new, is still in its early stages of use;
• The Meningitis B vaccine is not available on the NHS for teenagers / students. However, it is possible to have the vaccination done privately at, for example, high street pharmacies. This may cost around £200 (two jabs a month apart).

There are other strains of meningococcal disease, and people of any age can develop the illness, so please be vigilant.

Meningitis Now welcomes calls to their helpline: 0808 80 10 388

Useful information

For further information, please visit:
NHS Choices website http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Meningitis/Pages/Causes.aspx
Meningitis Research Foundation’s online eligibility checker can be found at: www.meningitis.org/oneshot
More information from Meningitis Now can be found here: https://www.meningitisnow.org/