(Written for The Spark Newspaper – Adapted for the blog)
I had originally written this for my University’s newspaper, which I will link to as soon as the article is published, but, for now, here is a useful guide to getting the meningitis vaccine, to ensure a safe and healthy start to your university life.
In the excitement of A-Level results, and getting your place at university, there are surely many things on your mind: Securing your accommodation, what to buy and what to pack, getting ready for Freshers’, and being preoccupied with what university life will bring. It is a significant step in your life and with all those things in mind, it would not be surprising if vaccinations are at the bottom of your list of things to do, if they made the list in the first place. But, with Freshers coming up, let me tell you why it should be there.
So, why should you be thinking about the meningitis vaccination?
- First-year students are particularly at risk of contracting Viral meningitis and Meningococcal disease (bacterial meningitis/Septicaemia), the second most ‘at risk group’ of the entire population.
- As with any bacteria, Meningitis can be spread through sneezing and coughing, and it is almost certain that you will get a cold in your first year at university (and Freshers Flu, anyone?). It can also be passed through other factors, such as intimate kissing, so you get the idea!
- Will you be living in halls this coming year? It is an amazing time to meet all new people from all across the country and overseas, however, you will all be living in close proximity, the perfect environment for disease and bacteria to spread. One in four young people, aged 15 to 19, will have the Meningococcal bacteria (which causes meningitis) lingering in their system. This is compared to one in ten of the entire UK population. So it is more likely that one of your new hall or course mates (or those you meet on a night out) might have it.
- The early symptoms of Meningitis include a severe headache, diarrhoea/vomiting, severe muscle pain, fever, drowsiness and difficulty to wake up. These can be mistaken for anything. Some of these symptoms can seem to be anything from Freshers flu to Food poisoning, or, simply, a hangover from the night before. It would be easy to brush off, and with no parents telling you to visit your GP, waiting for it to pass over would be easy to do. With the vaccination, you have the security of knowing you’re safe, and that that hangover is just a hangover!
What to do next?
Make an appointment with your GP! Ask for the MenACWY vaccine, they will know what you’re talking about. Chances are, if you just mention you’re going off to university and need the meningitis vaccine, they will know exactly what you mean.
Also, make sure you get registered with your University Health Centre as soon as you arrive for Freshers. Although you should receive the vaccine before you get to university, registering at the University GP will benefit you immensely over the next few years for anything that can come up.
Refer to the NHS website, and organisations such as MeningitisNow.org and the Meningitis Research Foundation for more information.
What to expect from the vaccination?
As someone who has had it themselves, it is not as bad as it may seem, and a bit of discomfort from the vaccination is no reason to put it off or forgo it altogether.
It might be a little bit sore, and you may experience some cold-like symptoms afterwards, but I assure you, you’ll be back to enjoying your Freshers’ Week in no time!
Meningitis is a deadly disease, which, when not fatal can cause a multitude of health complications that can affect you for the rest of your life – It only takes a quick internet search to realise the deadly risk posed to students, especially during Freshers’. Although it may seem scary, this is why I am here to inform you of the risks and how to avoid getting ill, to ensure you have the best possible experience at university.
Have fun at Freshers!
UPDATE: The online article: https://sparknewspaper.co.uk/news/meningitis-the-vaccine-and-staying-safe/