Rise in Meningitis B cases in universities in parts of the UK

Cases of group B meningococcal disease, a life-threatening infection, are rising among students studying in UK universities – please take the time to read this so you’re aware of the symptoms and what to do if you think you, or someone you know, may be affected.

What is group B meningococcal disease?  

Meningococcal disease is a life-threatening infection caused by bacteria that can go on to cause meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning).      

The disease can progress very quickly so it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms so that you can get medical help as soon as possible.    

Signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicemia   

Seek medical help immediately if you or someone you know has any of the following symptoms:   

  • fever with cold hands and feet  
  • vomiting   
  • drowsy or difficult to wake   
  • confusion and irritability   
  • severe muscle pain   
  • pale blotchy skin, spots or rash   
  • severe headache   
  • stiff neck   
  • dislike of bright lights   
  • convulsions or seizures.

When to get medical help  

You should get medical advice as soon as possible if you're concerned that you could have meningitis.  

Do not wait until a rash develops.  

Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E immediately if you think you might be seriously ill.  

Call NHS 111 or your GP surgery for advice if you're not sure if it's anything serious or you think you may have been exposed to someone with meningitis.   

Getting vaccinated against meningitis   

All university students should be immunised against the different meningitis strains. Most UK students will have received the meningococcal ACWY vaccine (MenACWY) between the ages of 13 and 15 and meningococcal B (MenB) vaccine as an infant.   

If you haven’t had these vaccines for any reason, please speak to your GP about getting vaccinated – this includes international students. The MenACWY vaccine protects against 4 types of meningococcal disease and septicaemia and is available free to students who are going to university for the first time up until their 25th birthday.