NOW that all the anxiety and waiting is over a lot of Stroud's 18-year-olds are getting ready to head off to university next month.

And while it is an exciting time meeting new flat mates, going to great parties and in many cases exploring new cities, it’s important for freshers to do everything to keep healthy.

For most youngsters this is their first time living away from home – which means mum and dad are not there to notice the signs of sickness – and for the most part it’s difficult to tell the difference between a hangover and being seriously ill.

This is why Public Health England and Stroud-based charity Meningitis Now are encouraging all new students to get vaccinated against meningococcal C (MenC) infection before beginning university in September.

After babies and young children teenagers and young people are the second most at risk group of contracting meningitis and septicemia.

More than 12 per cent of all cases occur in the 14 to 24 age group – with first year university students being at particular risk.

In the UK, all children are offered the MenC vaccine to protect them against infection, but as the protection offered by the vaccine can wane a booster for teenagers was added last year.

For the next few years university freshers will also be eligible for vaccination, until the teenagers who have had the booster reach university age.

Dr Shamez Ladhani, an expert on meningococcal disease for PHE, said: “Meningococcal C disease is a rare but life-threatening infection that occurs mainly in children and young adults.

“Students starting university and mixing with lots of new people, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria, are at risk of infection.

”As the protection offered by the infant MenC vaccine wanes over time we are recommending university freshers get a booster before they begin their studying, even if they received it as a young child.”

The vaccine is available to any student starting university who was born after September 1995 and who received the MenC vaccine under the age of ten.

It is also available to current and first-time students who are unvaccinated against the disease.

The vaccine is also important for students coming to study from abroad who are unable to get the vaccine at home. Again, they should obtain it as soon as possible.

Dr Shona Arora, centre director for the Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire PHE centre, said: “If you can’t remember, the best thing to do is to check with your doctor before you go off to university.

“Ideally, freshers should have the vaccination at least two weeks before they go away to study.

“However, anyone starting university without the booster should arrange to get it as soon as possible, via their university or college health centre or GP.

“If in doubt, there is no harm in having an extra dose.”

Sue Davie, Meningitis Now chief executive said: “It’s really important to get this vaccination, but students need to be aware that it won’t protect them against all forms of meningitis.

“Help look after your own and your friends’ health by downloading our signs and symptoms app or carrying one of our cards.

“And make sure someone knows if you are feeling unwell and can check on you.

“The message is learn the signs and symptoms and, if you suspect meningitis trust your instincts and seek medical advice immediately.”

Meningitis can strike quickly and kill within hours. Below are some of the symptoms:

-the sudden onset of a high fever

-a severe headache

-a dislike of bright lights


-painful joints

-a rash which can appear anywhere on the body