Students and teenagers across Northern Ireland are being urged to get the new meningitis vaccine, particularly if you are about to leave for university.

The new meningococcal vaccine will help protect against a potentially deadly strain of the disease.

School-leavers and first-time university students across the province are to receive the jab, which has been available since the beginning of August.

Dr Lucy Jessop, Consultant in Health Protection at the Public Health Agency, explained, “Older teenagers and those starting university usually mix with larger groups of people, making them more exposed to various infections or diseases.”

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“The best way to protect against meningococcal A, C, W, or Y disease is to get the vaccine before starting university.”

“Older teenagers are at higher risk of getting MenW disease, so you need to get vaccinated to help protect yourself.”

The new immunisation programme means everyone born between July 2, 1996 and July 1, 1997, and first time university students up to the age of 25, will be offered the Men ACWY vaccine.

From January 2016, the vaccination will also start to be rolled out to all 14-18-year-olds through the schools immunisation programme and GPs.

There are around 3,400 cases of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia every year in the UK and Ireland, meaning every day nine people become ill with the diseases. With one in 10 people dying, a death will occur almost every day.

The disease develops rapidly and early symptoms can include headache, vomiting, muscle pain and fever, with cold hands and feet.

If you’re about to leave for university, contact your GP to see if you should get the vaccination before you go.

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