Public Health England (PHE) is working closely with NHS partners following 3 confirmed cases of meningitis among students at the University of Surrey.
Sadly one of the students died while travelling home from a sports club tour to Italy. Passengers from the coach in which the student travelled were offered antibiotics as a precautionary measure. The other 2 students are recovering well after receiving appropriate treatment.
Detailed analysis of the bacteria that caused the disease in 2 of the students confirms that the cases were due to meningococcal group B (MenB) infection. PHE is arranging for all full-time undergraduate students who live in University of Surrey halls of residence to be vaccinated against MenB.
The University has written to students and staff advising them of the planned action and highlighting signs and symptoms of meningitis along with advice on what to do if they suspect they are infected.
The wider population in the town and non-students who visit but do not live on the university site are not considered within the at risk group because the higher risk is associated with the lifestyle of an undergraduate student, rather than simply being on campus.
Dr Peter English, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, PHE South East of England said:
Meningococcal infection is comparatively rare and the risk of transmission is relatively low. People who have prolonged, close contact with an ill person are at a slightly increased risk of becoming unwell in the following days. This is why immediate contacts of the cases have already been offered antibiotics as a precautionary measure.
After considering the medical evidence, we have decided to offer vaccination to around 4,200 students living in halls of residence at the university to reduce risk of further cases next term.
I would like to reassure other students, teachers, their families and the local community that the risk of catching this infection remains very low, and any higher risk is confined to those being offered the vaccine.
I would still urge everyone to be aware of the symptoms of both meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning).
I would also remind students to check their eligibility for the MenACWY vaccine with their GP. This vaccine protects against a number of different strains of meningococcal infection.
PHE is encouraging students to share awareness and care for one another. Don’t assume an illness is a hangover or a touch of flu. Learn the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia and if you think a friend or housemate is ill then check on them regularly and if you are worried seek medical help.