Researchers suggest targeting freshers could halt spread of meningitis

A campaign targeted at students arriving at university for the first time could hold the key to reducing the spread of meningitis and septicaemia, say researchers at the Universities of Leicester and Nottingham.

In a paper published in the academic journal Public Health, the researchers show how a campus-based vaccination campaign was successful in ensuring that almost three-quarters of students arriving at Nottingham were immunised against the potentially deadly disease.

The approach was so successful it has now been highlighted as an example of best practice by Public Health England in a report advising on the prevention and management of meningitis and septicaemia in higher education.

Dr Chris Bayliss (pictured) from the Department of Genetics said: "A high uptake of the MenACWY vaccine will help to protect first year university students and the wider community against meningitis and septicaemia caused by meningococcal bacteria particularly this new hypervirulent MenW strain.

“Vaccination is highly effective at preventing meningitis, septicaemia and the other infections caused by meningococci. Our study shows that offering MenACWY vaccination as students arrive at a University is a really effective way of maximising protection of this vulnerable age group.”

The researchers also noted that some unvaccinated students declined vaccination suggesting that further advertising of the national campaign could be necessary to raise awareness of the vital need for the MenACWY vaccine.

In line with most other universities, our University uses advertising to raise awareness of meningitis and to recommend vaccination prior to starting or on arrival at the campus.

In addition, all new students are contacted prior to arrival at our University with information about the need for the MenACWY vaccine and how to get vaccinated. This includes their local GP before leaving for University or with one of the local Health Centre’s who work closely with the University to support Student health and wellbeing.