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Spike in meningitis cases prompts calls for teenagers to get vaccination

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It is vital for students to take up the vaccine It is vital for students to take up the vaccine during the christmas break

Nurses and other healthcare professionals should encourage people aged 18 and 19 to get themselves vaccinated for meningococcal disease, after Public Health England (PHE) warned of an anticipated spike in cases.

According to PHE data, cases of the MenW strain have been on the rise, with 22 cases reported in 2009/10 to 176 in 2014/15. PHE have said that this strain is responsible for around a quarter of all laboratory-confirmed meningococcal cases in England. The meningococcal bacteria causes meningitis and septicaemia, or blood poisoning, with potentially fatal consequences.

'PHE encourage nurses and other healthcare professionals to take every opportunity to promote the MenACWY vaccination to 18 and 19 years in the target age group,' said Dr Shamez Ladhani, consultant at the immunisation, hepatitis and blood safety department of PHE. 'There are many ways to promote the vaccine to this age group. Clinicians can suggest the vaccination to them when they present in their clinic. GP surgeries are required to identify and contact eligible 18 and 19 year old patients to offer them the vaccination.'

'Meningitis can be deadly and survivors are often left with severe disabilities as a result of this terrible disease. Encouraging your son or daughter to have the vaccine could save their life, or prevent them from permanent disability.’said Joanne Yarwood, national immunisation programme manager at PHE.

All teenagers aged 18 and 19, those born between 1 September 1996 and 31 August 1997, are eligible to receive the vaccine for free regardless of whether they are studying or not. Students are particularly encouraged to take-up the vaccine during their university break before general practices close for Christmas and before they return to university and halls of residence, where they are often in close contact with many other students, increase the odds of spreading the bacteria.

‘As students head home for the winter break, we urge them to contact their GP to get vaccinated, if they haven’t already done so,’ said Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE. ‘Think of it as an early new year’s resolution and keep yourself and your friends safe by getting vaccinated.’

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