Meningitis is a viral or bacterial infection of the meninges – the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The spread of Meningitis requires close contact which is why there can be a break-out in university or college accommodation. Make sure you are up to date with your vaccinations before starting university or college to help protect yourself. If you arrive at university and realise you haven't been vaccinated, you will be able to receive one after registering at a GP surgery. Although Meningitis vaccines give excellent protection, they cannot prevent all forms, so it is important to be aware of the symptoms.
If you start at university in 2014 or later, you should get the MenC vaccine before you go. More information can be found here:
Symptoms may initially be similar to that of a bad cold:
Sensitivity of eyes to light
Distinctive skin rash that does not disappear under pressure.
If a glass tumbler is pressed firmly against the rash, the marks will not fade. You will be able to see the rash through the glass (see image).
A fever with spots or a rash that does not fade under pressure is a medical emergency requiring immediate admission to Accident and Emergency (A&E). However, a rash may not always appear with meningitis and so you should use your instincts and if you have even the slightest concern get in touch with a health professional.
With plenty of rest and painkillers for the headache viral meningitis usually gets better on it's own within a couple of weeks. Bacterial meningitis is more serious and will typically require admission to hospital for antibiotics to be administered.
Visit the NHS website for more information on Meningitis.