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20 September 2010, 00:00
As the University year gets underway, a survey carried out in Sussex shows half of students don't know if they've been vaccinated against meningitis.
Halls of Residence and other areas where people live closely together can increase the risk of catching the disease
Students lack life-saving knowledge despite being the second most at risk group of meningitis, says national charity Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF).
New research from MRF has found that students lack specific knowledge and awareness of these deadly diseases – over 50% of students in Brighton do not know whether they have been vaccinated against meningitis.
Living together in halls of residence and high levels of casual intimacy, especially during fresher’s week, put students at a higher risk of contracting the disease.
Sadly, around one in 10 people who contract meningitis or septicaemia die and many more are left with after-effects sometimes as severe as deafness, brain damage and amputations.
Kate Ogden from Brighton knows only too well the dangers of meningitis. She was 19 when she fought the disease.
When Kate was 19, at the end of her gap year, she went from finishing a normal day at work to fighting for her life against meningitis within 24 hours. When she started to feel ill she went to the doctor, who said she had a virus, and later when Kate spotted a rash the doctor said this was another sign of a virus. Her condition deteriorated and she ended up unconscious in intensive care, and was diagnosed 10 days later with meningococcal meningitis Group B – the strain for which there is no vaccine.
Kate said: “Sometimes even with the quickest action and the best medical care, meningitis still proves fatal. I’m incredibly proud of how all my family and friends pulled together to get me through it. I’ll never be able to thank them – or the doctors that saved my life – enough for what they’ve done. Know the symptoms, listen to your body, trust your instincts, and manage the minutes. It could save a life.”
Zoe Jeanes from Horsham was just 18 and enjoying the party lifestyle when she suffered meningococcal septicaemia. She was sent home by her GP telling her it was just a migraine, but was later rushed to hospital by ambulance, where she spent time in intensive care on both life support and dialysis machines. She has been left with after effects to her hearing, but knows how lucky she was.
“A lumbar puncture confirmed I had meningococcal septicaemia and my parents were told by doctors they didn't think I would make it through the night. I was told by one of the doctors afterwards that if I’d been an hour later, I would be dead. There isn't a day that goes by when I don't remember how lucky I am!”
Meningitis Awareness Week aims to combat this lack of knowledge and encourage teenagers and young adults to ‘Get the Message’ through the launch of a new iPhone app complete with symptoms checker and emergency contact information.
Every day in the UK and Ireland one teenager or young adult (14 to 24 year old) will become ill with meningitis and septicaemia - the blood poisoning form of the disease. These are devastating diseases which can leave a person fighting for their life within a few hours.
Knowing the symptoms and acting fast will save lives. Symptoms information is available free of charge from the Foundation’s Freefone 24 hour helpline – 080 8800 3344