STUDENTS are being urged to protect themselves against a killer brain bug before setting off to university.
For the first time, the Government has launched a pre-university booster programme to ensure students are protected against meningitis.
Three years ago, Wearside student Christopher McKee, pictured, was found dead in his university accommodation by flatmates.
Tests confirmed the sports journalism student, who was on the first year of his degree at the University of Sunderland, had died from a serious strain of meningitis.
Now the Meningitis Research Foundation. MRF, is urging all young people to make sure they are protected against the disease.
From Ballymena in Northern Ireland, 21-year-old Christopher died at The Forge university accommodation in Sunderland’s Pallion in March 2011.
MRF, an international charity, says all students need to get the vital meningitis vaccine before they go to university. It also wants all young people to know the signs and symptoms, as some kinds of meningitis cannot be prevented.
Meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours and leave many survivors with serious disabilities.
MRF is sending thousands of new posters to universities and colleges throughout the UK and has symptoms information available in print and online.
All children in the UK are vaccinated against Meningococcal C infection, which is estimated to save around 150 lives a year. But the protection does not last as long as expected, so the Government has launched the booster campaign for students entering university.
Christopher Head, chief executive of MRF, said: “New students are at increased risk of encountering the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease because they are often living in busy halls of residence and in close contact with other new students during freshers’ week.”
The booster is available to any student entering university who was born after September 1995 and has only received Men C vaccine under the age of 10, or anyone of any age entering or being at university who is unvaccinated against the disease.
Students should get immunised at least two weeks before they go away to study.
For more information, visit www.meningitis.org/news-media/starting-uni-in-the-uk-this-83321.