Health experts are warning British students that their lifestyle makes them more susceptible to contracting meningitis, in a bid to raise awareness about the infection.
The government’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) has warned that the typical student lifestyle makes undergraduates the second most vulnerable group in society, after children under five in terms of contracting the infection.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of the HPA’s immunisation department, said, “University bars and campuses where lots of students are in close proximity is an ideal place for bacteria and viruses to spread which is why we may see more outbreaks of these infections in this environment.”
The HPA will publish a leaflet describing the symptoms of the illness and offering advice about how to reduce the risk of catching it. The leaflet warns students of signs including fever, severe headaches, neck stiffness, seizures, vomiting and a dislike of bright lights. “Early treatment of meningitis is essential to save lives,” the leaflet reads.
The Students’ Union (UMSU) Welfare Officer, Hannah Paterson, encouraged students to look out for friends and house mates to check for signs of the infection. She said that people should be aware that many of the symptoms of meningitis are similar to being hungover.
She said, “Anyone who is worried that they may have contracted meningitis can visit their GP or call NHS direct. More information about the infection, including details of the symptoms, can be found in the Students’ Union.”