Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) is aware that three students at the University of Surrey have had meningitis since the beginning of March, and very sadly one of the students died. The thoughts of everyone at MRF are with the individuals and families affected and we extend heartfelt condolences to the family of the student who died.
Public Health England has investigated and found the cause to be meningococcal B (MenB), which is the commonest cause of bacterial meningitis in this country. To stop further cases, they are offering MenB vaccination to undergraduates living in residence at the university starting on Wednesday 3 May.
MenB bacteria are harmless to most people who come into contact with them and are not highly infectious. The bacteria are very commonly carried at the back of the nose and throat and are passed from one person to another by prolonged close contact: coughing, sneezing, kissing, and the bacteria are more likely to be passed between people living and/or sleeping in the same household. Most cases are isolated and it is unusual for there to be more than one person affected by bacterial meningitis in one education institution.
There are clear public health guidelines to offer antibiotics to household contacts* of people affected and these have been closely followed. But since the three cases happened within a short period of time in the same university, and are caused by a preventable strain, vaccination is being offered.
MRF is in touch with Public Health England and the University of Surrey to provide information and has shared our free helpline number, and we will be there in person to provide information and support during the vaccination sessions.
We encourage all undergraduates living in residence at the University to get the MenB vaccine, and everyone at the university to be aware of the symptoms as a precaution.
This is also an opportunity for first year students to check if they have been vaccinated with the MenACWY vaccine and get it from their GP if they haven’t had it already. All first year undergraduates up to age 25 are eligible for MenACWY vaccine which protects against other strains of meningitis. It’s important to know that it doesn’t protect against MenB.
*Close contact is defined as those who have had prolonged close contact with the case in a household type setting during the seven days before onset of illness. Examples of such contacts would be those living and/or sleeping in the same household (including extended household), pupils in the same dormitory, boy/girlfriends, or university students sharing a kitchen in a hall of residence.