Meningitis campaign aims to save lives

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Alisha Bartolini died after contracting meningitis while at university. Pic © Meningitis Now

A pilot project introduced in Liverpool could prevent students needlessly dying of meningitis.

The charity Meningitis Now is working with local universities and GP surgeries to increase uptake of the MenACWY vaccine, which guards against several major strains of meningitis.

Adverts will also be placed on the main bus routes from student areas into the city centre, and it is hoped this will increase awareness of the availability of the vaccination.

The pilot project is backed by Michaela Bartolini, whose daughter Alisha tragically died after she contracted meningitis aged just 18, while completing her first term at Liverpool Hope University.

Liverpool has been targeted for the pilot project because the uptake rate is one of the lowest in the country, with 2017 figures showing only 73.7% of those eligible in the city had received the vaccine. Ideally, at least 90-95% uptake is required, in order to provide a level of herd immunity as well as direct protection.

Chief Executive of Meningitis Wow, Dr Tom Nutt,  told JMU Journalism: “The uptake has been low, so it makes sense to work in partnership, where possible, with universities and the local NHS in order to drive up those vaccine rates – because we know that that will save lives.”

Youtube: Meningitis Now

Dr Nutt explained why students can be especially vulnerable to meningitis.

He said: “They’re more likely to be living in close proximity to one another in halls or digs, or perhaps sharing drinks – beer bottles, that sort of thing, and quite often students are associated with other risk factors such as smoking as well, and that’s not to mention kissing and things like that.”

These lifestyles factors mean that the bacteria which causes meningitis is more easily transmitted, therefore it is important for students to protect themselves by getting the vaccination.

However, the jab will not give protection against all forms of meningitis, so it is still crucial that people are aware of the signs and symptoms.

Dr Nutt said: “There could be symptoms that are flu-like or hangover-like, as well as some of the more classic symptoms of the disease like a stiff neck or an aversion to bright light, or in some cases a rash. If you see any of those it’s really important that you just go and seek medical attention right away. ”

He added: “Meningitis is a terrible and devastating disease that can kill people within 24 hours.”