Make sure it's only freshers' flu. Meningitis fears for new students

PUTNEY, U.K. - Aug. 31, 2023 - PRLog -- Leading testing expert, Dr Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), Clinical Lead at London Medical Laboratory, says: 'Schools go back next week and many universities' freshers' weeks start on 18 September. Due to the impact of Covid lockdowns on school inoculation schedules, health professionals are increasingly concerned about the new academic year.

'The MenACWY vaccine usually protects against four strains of the meningococcal bacteria – A, C, W and Y – that cause meningitis and bloodstream infections (septicaemia). It's normally offered to all pupils aged 13 to 15 years old alongside the "teenage booster" jab, which is given to increase protection against tetanus, diphtheria and polio.

'However, many students who were aged around 15 in 2020 may have missed these key jabs because of Covid school closures. This age group is now starting university. The latest MenACWY coverage data shows the vaccination rate has now fallen to 79.6%.

'It's particularly concerning, as cases of so-called "freshers' flu" (usually caused by assorted bugs that spread quickly through the student population in the first weeks of term) can be confused with symptoms of meningitis in its early stages.

'Meningitis and septicaemia can develop suddenly. Symptoms include:
  • a blotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it
  • fever
  • headache
  • aching muscles and joints
  • a stiff neck
  • sensitivity and intolerance to light
  • The MenW strain can also cause vomiting and diarrhoea in teenagers and young adults

'With the exception of the rash, the concern is that all of these symptoms may be mistaken initially for freshers' flu and/or the weeklong hangover that is often considered a rite of passage for new students. Urgent antibiotic treatment and hospitalisation is critical as soon as meningitis is diagnosed.

'For anyone concerned about their overall health as they start university or as their kids return to school, a general health test might provide reassurance that they are in overall good health to help fight the symptoms of new viruses. London Medical Laboratory's General Health Profile ( blood test provides people with a comprehensive check-up of their general health, including diabetes (HbA1c), gout, liver & kidney function, bone health, iron levels and a full cholesterol profile. It can be taken at home through the post, or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer these tests across London and nationwide in over 95 selected pharmacies and health stores.

London Medical Laboratory
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