Charity plea to headteachers

Charity Meningitis Now is calling on headteachers to ensure pupils are protected from the deadly disease.

The plea comes as over one million schoolchildren aged 13 – 15 are being offered the meningococcal (Men) ACWY vaccine as part of the adolescent school immunisation programme for the first time.

The vaccination will replace the current Men C booster offered to this age group.

The vaccine was introduced in August 2015 to combat a rise in cases of Men W.

Teenagers and young adolescents are particularly susceptible to the disease, ranking as the second most at risk group of contracting meningitis after babies and toddlers.

Sue Davie, Meningitis Now chief executive, said: “Cases of Men W have been rising year on year since 2009.

“Teenagers are more likely to carry the bacteria that can cause meningitis, so it’s vital that they are not complacent about the threat of this deadly disease.

“Every school has a named school nurse and it is important that headteachers work alongside their local nursing teams to get this age group vaccinated.

“Parents will be sent a consent letter before the vaccination is given and we urge them to take it up - they can call our free helpline on 0808 80 10 388 if they have any questions or concerns.

“Because there are not vaccines for all strains, we urge everyone to learn the signs and symptoms of the disease.”

Symptoms can include a fever with cold hands and feet, drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights and a rash which doesn’t fade under pressure.

Advice from Meningitis Now is not to wait for a rash, which can be a late sign and may not appear at all, and seek urgent medical help if the disease is suspected.

For more information, visit www.meningitis.now.org.