Meningococcal disease

This page provides information about Meningococcal disease including how it’s spread, its symptoms, and how to get a vaccine.

It’s important to be aware of meningococcal disease, especially if you’re living in halls of residence, hostel accommodation or flats.

What is meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease is a serious infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. It can cause meningitis (inflammation of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord) or septicaemia (a severe infection of the bloodstream). The symptoms can develop very quickly and can lead to death in under 12 hours. It is important to get medical attention as soon as possible. Meningococcal disease can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics, and it is important that treatment be started as soon as possible.

If you suspect meningococcal disease you must seek immediate medical attention or call 111.

How do you catch it?

Meningococcal bacteria are commonly carried in the nose and throat, and do not usually cause disease.

The bacteria can be transferred from person to person through contact with saliva, including:

  • Intimate kissing
  • Shared drink bottles
  • Coughing, sneezing or laughing.

What are the symptoms?

The initial symptoms are difficult to distinguish from other infectious illnesses, eg, influenza. Almost 80% of cases will develop a rash that does not blanch (become pale/go white) when pressed on. This type of rash is often a late sign of infection.

If you experience any of the symptoms below, you must contact your doctor immediately!

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Malaise
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Dislike of bright light
  • Neck stiffness
  • Rash or spots.

Which meningococcal vaccine is best for me?

There are three vaccines brands currently available to help cover this form of meningitis. You can discuss the best option for you with your doctor or nurse.


This covers the widest range of meningococcal groups (A, C, Y and W-135) and is also recommended for travel (for instance it is mandatory for those undertaking the Hajj). This vaccine is free for domestic students and should be recieved at least one month before starting university. 

NeisVac –C

This is a cheaper vaccine which covers group C, one of the most common forms of the Meningococcal infection in young people.


This protects against meningoccal B and is given via two injections, at least one month apart.

Who should have the vaccine?

  • Students entering or living in hostel-type accommodation, eg. University halls of residence.
  • Those with medical conditions affecting their immune response, eg. sickle cell anaemia, HIV infection.
  • Close contacts of a case of meningococcal disease.
  • Travellers to sub-saharan Africa.
  • Military recruits.
  • Hajj pilgrims.

Where can I get the vaccine?

Vaccines are available for purchase through Student Health and Counselling.

For more information, contact:

University Health and Counselling
Phone: 0800 698 427 - 0800 MY UHCS