Meningitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the lining of the brain. It can be caused by viruses or bacteria.
The bacteria that cause meningitis and meningococcal disease are spread by coughing, sneezing or direct contact such as kissing. The disease can develop very rapidly, sometimes within a matter of hours. The biggest problem is that most of the early symptoms are mild and similar to those you get with flu or hangover, for example:
- feeling feverish
- pain in the back or joints
- a headache
- a stiff neck
If any of the following symptoms develop get medical help urgently - meningitis can kill and early treatment saves lives:
- severe dislike of light
- a bruise-like rash that doesn't fade under pressure
- or marked drowsiness or coma
Anyone attending university, whatever their age, should be immunised before they enrol or as soon as possible thereafter.
What is Meningitis?
Meningitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the lining of the brain. It can be caused by viruses or bacteria. It can also cause septicaemia (blood poisoning). We can give you an injection of MenC vaccine which protects you against the most common type of Meningitis. It does not protect against all types of the disease, so it's very important that you know the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.
How is the disease spread?
The bacteria which cause meningitis are spread by coughing, sneezing or direct contact such as sharing a drinking glass, or kissing. Outbreaks are more likely to occur in places where people live or work closely together in large groups. The important thing to know is that the disease can develop very rapidly, sometimes within a matter of hours.
How serious are meningitis and septicaemia?
The diseases are rare but can be extremely dangerous, resulting in deafness, blindness, paralysis, loss of arms or legs, and even death. However, if the symptoms are noticed and treatment (with antibiotics) is given quickly, people can recover fully.
What is the vaccine?
The vaccine protects you against group C meningitis and septicaemia. The vaccine is not live. It contains parts of the bacteria which should protect you but cannot give you the disease. You only need one dose, which is given in an injection. One injection should protect you for the rest of your life, but, as it doesn't protect you against all causes of meningitis and septicaemia, make sure you know about the signs and symptoms described above.
Are there any side effects from the vaccine?
The side effects of the vaccine are usually mild and do not last very long. About one to two days after the injection you may have a sore arm and some redness and swelling where the injection was given. This will usually go away within a few days. You may develop a slight temperature which lasts for a few hours, or you may get a headache.
Are there any reasons why I should not have this vaccine?
You should not have the vaccine if you are ill and have a temperature. If you've had a severe allergic reaction to a previous immunisation, you'll need to check with your doctor or nurse first. Tell your doctor or nurse if you think you might be pregnant.
What to do in an emergency
If you need to see a doctor urgently out of surgery hours or at weekends or vacation time, please contact the practice you are registered with. Alternatively:
- contact emergency services on 999
- contact NHS Direct on +44 (0)845 4647
- go to Accident and Emergency, Royal Sussex County Hospital, Eastern Road, Brighton +44 (0)1273 696955 (ext 4264)
- go to Accident & Emergency, Eastbourne DGH , Kings Drive, Eastbourne, +44 (0)1323 417400
- go to Accident & Emergency, Conquest Hospital, The Ridge, St Leonards-on-Sea, +44 (0)1424 755255
Where can I get more information?