On day 3 of meningitis awareness week, we highlight another group of people who are ‘at risk’ of contracting meningitis – Students.

  • Students and young adults are the second most ‘at risk’ group of people for contracting meningitis.
  • Meningitis is one the major health risks for young adults in their first year at university.
  • One in four students will be carrying meningococcal bacteria, which can cause meningitis. This is compared to one in ten of the overall UK population.
  • The bacteria can be passed by coughing, sneezing and intimate kissing.
  • First year students generally live in “halls”, which places them in close proximity to a large number of other students – effectively guaranteeing that they will come into contact with someone carrying the meningococcal bacteria.
  • Colds and flu are common place in the first few weeks of University, which increases the amount of coughing and sneezing and therefore the spread of the bacteria.

What is meningitis?

 Meningitis is a serious, life-threatening illness.

Meningitis is inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord – the meninges. Septicaemia is blood poising caused by the same germs and is the more life threatening form of the disease. Septicaemia can occur with or without meningitis” – Meningitis Research Foundation


 Given the prevalence of meningitis in the student community, it is therefore extremely important that young adults and students are aware of the symptoms of meningitis and/or septicaemia so that they can recognize when they or a friend are exhibiting sings of these illnesses.

It is important to try and recognise the difference between the symptoms of meningitis/septicaemia and normal flu-like symptoms (or a hangover).

We recommend that all young adults are informed about the symptoms of meningitis. These include:

  1. Fever and/or vomiting
  2. Severe headache
  3. Rash (anywhere on the body)
  4. Stiff Neck
  5. Dislike of bright lights
  6. Very sleepy, difficult to wake, vacant
  7. Confused, delirious
  8. Seizures (fits)

In addition, people with septicaemia may also exhibit the following symptoms:

  1. Limb, joint and muscle pain
  2. Cold hands and feet, shivering
  3. Pale
  4. Breathing fast, breathless

Not all symptoms may appear. Symptoms may appear in any order.

If you are a young adult or student and you are concerned that a friend or housemate is ill, check up on them regularly, check for the symptoms listed above and seek urgent medical help if you are worried that they may have meningitis.


 Students and young adults are encouraged to get the MenACWY vaccination which is a combination vaccine which protects against various strains of meningitis, including group W meningococcal disease (MenW), one of the most aggressive and deadly strains.

 Awareness Campaigns

Public Health England, government websites, meningitis awareness charities and the media are all emphasizing the importance of vaccinating against meningitis.

The Meningitis Research Foundation works with students across the UK to raise awareness and also to raise money for meningitis research. They were awarded ‘Charity of the Year’ for their Student Programme at the National Raise and Give Conference in 2014 and 2017.


You can order a free awareness pack from their website which includes posters that can be put up in the community to raise awareness:


They also have an initiative called “safety net selfie” aimed at raising awareness on social media.

Meningitis Now, a charity dedicated to eradicating meningitis in the UK, is also campaigning to raise awareness. They are proposing that new students should carrying a “signs and symptoms card” with them when the leave for university. This can be downloaded for free from their website:


They have also created a “signs and symptoms” app that can be downloaded to iphones and android. Meningitis Now also has a programme called “Believe and Achieve” for 14 – 25 year olds who have been affected by Meningitis.

If you or a member of your family have suffered an injury or lost a loved one as a result of meningitis or septicaemia and you are concerned with the standard of treatment received, then our specialist medical negligence solicitors may be able to help.

Freeths Oxford are proud to be Meningitis Research Foundation’s exclusive legal partner in the south east and to support the campaign to raise awareness and improve advice to patients. See www.meningitis.org 

Please contact Catherine Bell, Senior Associate, on catherine.bell@freeths.co.uk or 01865 781 140 or speak to another member of our team:-

Carolyn Lowe, Partner on 0186 578 1019 or carolyn.lowe@freeths.co.uk

Lucy Habgood, Solicitor on 0186 578 1093 or lucy.habgood@freeths.co.uk

James Cavanagh, Solicitor on 0186 578 1193 or james.cavanagh@freeths.co.uk

Laura Robertson, Solicitor on 0186 578 1103 or laura.robertson@freeths.co.uk

For further information please also visit our website at: http://www.freeths.co.uk/legal-services/individuals/clinical-negligence