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University and Meningitis Now collaborate to help students stay safe from deadly disease

University of Gloucestershire has joined forces with national charity Meningitis Now to educate students about the impact of the potentially deadly disease and the importance of taking steps to protect themselves.

The two organisations have collaborated on a special episode of the University’s Behind the Uni podcast series in which students who have survived meningitis discuss the short-term and long-term impact of the disease, share their experiences and offer important health advice.

The podcast helps students recognise the early signs of meningitis, provides advice about the importance of being vaccinated and gives guidance on how to register with a local GP surgery, to mitigate the risks associated with meningitis.

Meningitis Now has estimated that before the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to restrictions on socialising and therefore reduced opportunities to spread infections, there were 8,000 cases of meningitis in the UK every year.

Symptoms include severe headaches, blotchy skin, a fever, vomiting, and drowsiness.

Teenagers and young adults – the age groups most likely to attend university – are the second most at-risk group of contracting the disease (behind children aged under five), which can result in death in just a few hours.

People who recover from meningitis may suffer permanent disabilities, such as brain damage, blindess, hearing and speech loss, and learning disabilities.

One of the students featured in the podcast, Tilly, was preparing to enjoy a summer festival when she developed a fever. Having been told she had heatstroke, Tilly was eventually diagnosed with viral meningitis. 

Tilly said: “I want to use my experience to educate others and show how serious viral meningitis can be and how much your life might be impacted, but also that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and with time, things will start improving. 

“I now have had to be more conscious of my health and not to push myself. I make sure I have enough rest and that am doing all that I can to help my recovery. 

“I still have days where everything is overwhelming and emotional, but the good days outweigh the bad days now. I am now able to do lots of things again that I couldn’t do for months. I feel in a much better place both mentally and physically.”

Meningitis Now, based in Stroud, Gloucestershire, is working towards a future where no one in the UK dies from meningitis and everyone affected receives the support they need to rebuild their lives.

The charity’s activities include funding research into the development and introduction of new vaccines, reducing the impact of the disease by empowering people with the knowledge they need to seek urgent medical attention, and providing dedicated assistance to people living with the effects of meningitis.

Meningitis Now CEO, Dr Tom Nutt, said: “We are really delighted to be collaborating with University of Gloucestershire for our student awareness campaign.

“Our focus for the campaign is for young people with an experience of meningitis to have the opportunity to share their story directly with their peers. 

“One of the most important aspects of our student campaign is getting the message about the risk of meningitis out to as many young people as possible.

“The podcast serves as a great reminder about the importance of knowing the signs and symptoms of meningitis, especially as students start university and their risk of contracting meningitis rises.

“We hope the podcast will resonate with listeners and persuade any young people who hear it to check their meningitis vaccination status.”

Image: Students and members of the Meningitis Now and University of Gloucestershire teams who were involved in producing the special podcast