Focus on Meningitis

Focus on Meningitis

What are meningitis and septicaemia?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. It is caused by either bacteria or viruses. In septicaemia, bacteria infect the blood and may spread through the body to make you very ill. Meningitis and septicaemia can kill.

How serious are meningitis and septicaemia?

Meningitis and septicaemia are quite rare, but can be extremely dangerous, resulting in deafness, blindness, loss of limbs or even death. However, if symptoms are noticed and treatment is given quickly people can recover fully.

Who is most at risk?

Cases in students occur mostly among first years. These cases are particularly likely in the first few weeks of starting university or college.

How common is the disease and how is it spread?

Nearly 1 in 10 young people carry the bacteria in the nose and throat without developing meningitis or septicaemia.

What is the vaccine?

The vaccine provides protection against group A and C meningitis and septicaemia. The vaccine is not live. It contains parts of the bacteria which should protect you but cannot give you meningitis or septicaemia. You only need one dose.

What protection does the vaccine provide?

One injection should provide protection that lasts for 3 to 5 years. It is important to be immunised as soon as possible but you should remain alert for the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.

Where should you go to be immunised?

You should arrange to get the vaccine at your GP surgery. Ring up and make an appointment. It is best to get immunised before you go to university or college. If you don't get the chance to visit your GP, then get the vaccine when you start university or college.

Are there any side effects from the vaccine?

Possible side effects of the vaccine are usually mild and short term. About 1-2 days after being immunised 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. Some people might develop a slight temperature lasting a few hours.

Are there any reasons not to have this vaccine?

You should not have the vaccine if you are ill and running a temperature at the time of the immunisation. If you think you might be pregnant, you should tell your GP.


This vaccine does not protect you against all causes of meningitis and septicaemia. That is why it is very important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia. Early signs are often mild and similar to those you get with flu or a hangover.

The signs can include:

  • vomiting
  • feeling feverish
  • pain in the back or joints
  • a severe headache
  • a stiff neck

Get medical help urgently if any of the following symptoms develop:

  • severe dislike of light
  • disorientation
  • a bruise-like rash that doesn't fade under pressure (do the glass test*)
  • decreased consciousness, progressing to coma

If you or a friend develop some of these symptoms or feel worried, don't delay - talk to a GP or nurse. Better safe than sorry!

The Glass Test:

By pressing the side of a glass against the rash - you will be able to see if it fades colour under pressure. If it doesn't change colour, contact your doctor immediately.

Can meningitis and septicaemia be treated?

If at any time you feel that you or someone you know might have meningitis or septicaemia, you should contact your GP or go to the nearest Accident and Emergency Department immediately. A person diagnosed as having meningitis will be treated with antibiotics straight away, and admitted to hospital.

Remember, if you recognise the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia and act quickly - you can make a difference!

Call 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergencyNHS ChoicesThis site is brought to you by My Surgery Website