First time students under 25 urged to get meningitis vaccine

Public Health England has urged all first time students in England under the age of 25 to seek the Men ACWY vaccine to protect against Meningitis strains A, C, W and Y, amid concerns about a ‘highly aggressive strain’ of meningitis W bacteria.

Whilst only 22 people were infected with meningitis W in 2009 in England, that number has risen to almost 200 people in the last 12 months.

One meningitis W survivor, Amy Davis, 24, was infected when she was 18. She said:

“At first I thought I had the flu and felt very tired. But by the next day, I was covered in a rash, felt extremely unwell and was rushed to hospital.

“I spent three weeks in intensive care on life-support. My organs failed, and my family was told I was the most unwell person in the hospital.”

The infection spread to her bloodstream and bones and damaged her feet. She had toes on both feet amputated, and later her left leg was also amputated.

She added: “The jab was not available when I was 18. I would encourage everyone to get the vaccine who can.

“It takes just five minutes, and is just one injection that can save your life or save you from getting horrific side-effects.”

Dr Mary Ramsay, at Public Health England, said students needed to remain vigilant to signs of the disease.

She added: “Protecting young people from this potentially deadly disease as they embark upon one of the most important periods of their lives is vitally important.

“The vaccination will save lives and prevent lifelong devastating disability.”


  • Meningitis is an infection of the meninges – the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord
  • Meningococcal bacteria are common and carried harmlessly in the nose or throat by about one in 10 people
  • They are passed on through close contact
  • Symptoms can include a fever, tiredness, and general aches at first. These can get rapidly worse, with agitation, confusion, vomiting and headaches
  • People should seek help as soon as possible and should not wait for a rash to appear before getting advice