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HPA - As students return to university HPA reminds of meningitis and measles risk

The Health Protection Agency is reminding students about the importance of receiving the MMR and Men C vaccinations before they return to university campus, where outbreaks can occur. In a leaflet available on the HPA website, students are also advised on how to spot the early signs of these serious infections.

There were 777 laboratory confirmed cases of measles reported to the Health Protection Agency in England and Wales up to the end of July 2011, compared with a provisional total of 374 cases for the whole of 2010. Those cases were mainly in children or young adults under 25 years of age and have been associated with small clusters in universities and schools, with many of the patients unvaccinated.

In 2010 there were 896 cases of meningococcal infection, which is one of the most common causes of meningitis, a serious infection that causes the lining of the brain to become inflamed, and in some cases can prove fatal. Like with measles, children and young adults are disproportionately affected with meningococcal infection.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of the immunisation department at the Health Protection Agency, said: "Measles and meningitis are infections that can both be fatal, it is absolutely vital that all students ensure they are completely up to date with all their vaccinations, especially the MMR and Men C vaccine.

"University bars and campuses where lots of students are in close proximity is an ideal place for bacteria and viruses to spread which is why we may see more outbreaks of these infections in this environment.  

"The MMR will protect against measles, mumps and rubella - all serious infections that can lead to many complications. Mumps can be a very unpleasant illness and can require hospital treatment. Although the Men C vaccine does not protect against all the bacteria that can lead to meningitis it is still vital to make sure you are protected against that strain. There is no vaccine for the meningitis B strain which is more common which is why we are also reminding students about the early warning signs of this infection."

Notes for editors:

  1. For the latest information on measles, mumps and rubella visit http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/MMR/ 
  2. For the latest information on numbers of meningococcal infection please visit http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/MeningococcalDisease/EpidemiologicalData/ 
  3. For information on the meningitis research foundation visit http://www.meningitis.org/  
  4. For information on the meningitis trust visit http://www.meningitis-trust.org/?gclid=COGPxdiGqasCFYUOfAod32eTzw
  5. The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. It does this by providing advice and information to the general public, to health professionals such as doctors and nurses, and to national and local government. From April 2012 the HPA will become part of Public Health England. To find out more, visit our website: www.hpa.org.uk 
  6. For more information please contact the national HPA press office at Colindale on 0208 327 7901 or email cfipressoffice@hpa.org.uk. Out of hours the duty press officer can be contacted on 0208 200 4400.


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