Young adults are particularly susceptible to Meningitis, so you may find it slightly alarming to know that in the back of the throats of one in four students in the UK lurks the bacteria that causes it. This is largely due to increased ‘social interaction’ as it’s only present in the throats of one in ten adults. This life threatening disease isn’t something to mess around with, so it’s important that you know all the facts.

What is Meningitis?

Meningitis may be a scary term, but it essentially means the swelling of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. There are actually several different types of meningitis and while viral meningitis is rarely life threatening, it displays many of the same symptoms as bacterial meningitis, which is. So if any form of meningitis is suspected, medical care should be sought immediately.

What are the symptoms?

  • Stiff neck
  • Spots/ rash that does not fade under pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Severe headache
  • Fever, cold hands and feet
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Drowsiness, confusion or irritability
  • Convulsions

The symptoms of Meningitis rarely all occur at the same time and many can be easily mistaken for flu or a bad hangover. Contrary to popular belief, a rash doesn’t always appear and when it does it’s often one of the last symptoms.

When should I get a vaccination?

Ideally before you go to university, but if you’re already there then get one as soon as possible.

My symptoms match. What should I do?

The virus can take hold quickly and can prove fatal in a matter of hours, so if you suspect that someone has Meningitis they need to get urgent medical care. If you’re in any doubt call the NHS helpline straight away (tel. 111, or if an emergency tel. 999).