Preventative meningitis vaccination programme to be run on University of Leicester campus for first time

Posted by pt91 at Sep 28, 2017 11:21 AM |
Research by the University leads to improvements in health protection delivery

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 27 September 2017

  • Vaccination programme follows research at Leicester and Nottingham
  • University and Students’ Union, Public Health team of NHS England and Victoria Park Health Centre work in partnership

We regret there are no photo/filming opportunities of students being vaccinated

A preventative meningitis vaccine programme for new students is being offered at the University of Leicester for the first time.

It follows research conducted by the University itself, in partnership with the University of Nottingham, and published in the academic journal Public Health, that found offering MenACWY vaccination as students arrive at a University is a really effective way of maximising protection of this vulnerable age group.

The Victoria Park Health Centre is offering the vaccination programme for all new students who register with the practice.

In April 2015, the UK Department of Health recommended and funded a national campaign to offer the MenACWY vaccine to all first-year university entrants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This vaccine campaign was initiated in order to reduce the numbers of cases of meningitis and septicaemia caused by a hypervirulent MenW clone of Neisseria meningitidis (the meningococcus).

MenW strains caused 210 cases of invasive meningococcal disease between the 1st July 2015 and the 30th June 2016 with 35 in the 15-24 age bracket (Public Health England, Infection Report, vol 10, no. 37; www.gov.uk). The vaccine will protect students against infections by this hypervirulent clone and additionally against strains with the A, C and Y capsule types.

Dr Chris Bayliss from the University of Leicester's Department of Genetics and Genome Biology, said: "A high uptake of the MenACWY vaccine will help to protect first year university students and the wider community against meningitis and septicaemia caused by meningococcal bacteria particularly this new hypervirulent MenW strain."

In England, cases of meningitis caused by the Meningococcal serogroup W (MenW) bacteria have been rapidly increasing since 2009 due to the emergence of a highly aggressive ST-11 strain. The illnesses associated with this strain are often severe with a frequent requirement for treatment in intensive care and a higher death rate than other meningococcal strains.

Symptoms of infection range from the lethargy, mild fever, headaches and vomiting seen with other meningococcal strains to unusual presentations such as  joint infections, pneumonia, epiglottitis (a dangerous swelling around the "lid" that covers the windpipe), and gastrointestinal symptoms. These latter symptoms can occur without the characteristic non-blanching rash and may rapidly become more severe and have led to deaths in a number of cases.

Dr Bayliss, who is Reader in Bacterial Genetics, said: “Vaccination is highly effective at preventing meningitis, septicaemia and the other infections caused by meningococci. This campaign is an example of how research can lead to improvements in health protection delivery and evidence of the University of Leicester’s commitment to preventing meningitis and septicaemia among its students.”

Dr Bayliss warned that this campaign is intended to augment the national campaign and students should take up MenACWY immunization prior to arrival at University as a protective response takes between two and four weeks to develop. This vaccine will also not protect against MenB strains of Neisseria meningitidis and students will need to maintain vigilance with regard to signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.

The immunization programme will be offered between September 27-29 to freshers by the Victoria Park Health Centre and hosted by the University.

Claire Heggs, Head of Student Welfare, said: “Having the setting in the Students’ Union means that registering with our local health centre and receiving the vaccination is a healthy part of welcome week.   It removes the fear factor, is easy to access and students can even attend in groups

“One of our key messages during our welcome week is to encourage students to register with a GP and not wait until they become unwell. Knowing what to do if you feel poorly whilst away from home will make a difference to the speed and ease of students accessing services.”

Samantha Rogers, from Victoria Park Health Centre, said: “Anyone born between 1st September 1996 and 31st August 1999 can go to their registered GP for vaccination. In addition, people coming to University for the first time who are under 25 should also be vaccinated with Men ACWY. Please note that the previous Men C Vaccine does not cover the new virulent strains of Meningitis.

“It is important that you are vaccinated as early as possible. Please don’t delay.

“If students are already a patient at Victoria Park Health Centre and meet the above criteria, please call us to arrange an appointment or ask at the reception desk. Please don’t re-Register on campus to get it during these sessions as this could cause long term confusion with your medical records.”

In previous work by University of Nottingham and University of Leicester researchers (Dr. David Turner, Dr. Neil Oldfield and Dr. Chris Bayliss, Public Health 145, 1-3), only 31% of 2015 in-coming students at the University of Nottingham were found to have had the MenACWY vaccine. The level of vaccine uptake was then increased to 72% by on-campus immunization. In order to see whether such a campaign was need at the University of Leicester, Dr Chris Bayliss (Department of Genetics and Genome Biology) conducted a self-reporting study in February 2017 with 303 first year biological science and economics students at the University of Leicester

The overall proportion reporting uptake of immunization was 73% of which 65% had been immunized prior to arrival at the University. However, significantly lower levels were detected among economics students (n = 89) of whom only 52% were immunized prior to arrival. When asked, 72% of non-vaccinated students indicated that on-campus immunization would have made it more likely that they were vaccinated. This level of vaccine coverage leaves many students vulnerable to infections with this hypervirulent MenW clone whose rapid onset and unusual symptoms make it an important health concern for in-coming university students.

In line with most other universities, the University of Leicester uses advertising to raise awareness of meningitis and to recommend vaccination prior to starting or on arrival at the campus.

In addition, all new students are contacted prior to arrival at the University of Leicester with information about the need for the MenACWY vaccine and how to get vaccinated. This includes their local GP before leaving for University or with one of the local Health Centre’s who work closely with the University to support Student health and wellbeing.

ENDS

NOTE TO NEWSDESK

For more information please contact:

Dr Chris Bayliss

Reader in Bacterial Genetics

Department of Genetics and Genome Biology,

University of Leicester

cdb12@le.ac.uk

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