Several cases of bacterial meningitis caused by Meningococcal B (MenB) bacteria have occurred recently in the Bristol area since the tragic death of St Brendan’s college student George Zographou.
Around 1 in 4 teenagers harmlessly carry meningococcal bacteria in the back of the nose and throat, but it is relatively unusual for the bacteria to invade the body and cause disease.
Meningococcal bacteria are transmitted from person to person by close contact with others such as coughing, sneezing, kissing etc. Usually we have to be in very close or regular contact with someone for the bacteria to pass between us. Even when this happens, most of us will not become ill because we have natural immunity.
We have spoken to Public Health England who have guidelines in place which specify when further public health action should be taken in cases of meningococcal disease. Public Health England are currently working to identify close contacts of the cases to identify anyone who is at increased risk.
In the general population, the MenB vaccine is not routinely offered by the NHS to teenagers and young adults because of the low number of cases that occur across the UK. Some people may want to purchase vaccines privately. If so, MenB vaccines are available privately that have been proven safe and effective in clinical trials.
There are many different causes of meningitis and septicaemia, so it is important for students to protect themselves with vaccines which are available free of charge. A MenACWY (which doesn’t protect against the strain which caused the Bristol cases) is available free of charge on the NHS and we strongly encourage those eligible to take up the vaccine.