Two cases of meningitis B have been confirmed in students at the University of Bristol. Both students, who are friends, have been receiving treatment in hospital in Cardiff and are recovering well, University officials said.

 Gram-negative Neisseria meningitidis diplococcal bacteria/CDC
Gram-negative Neisseria meningitidis diplococcal bacteria/CDC

Public Health England’s (PHE) health protection team has worked with the University to identify close contacts of the cases (students who share the same accommodation). Antibiotics and vaccination have been arranged for these close contacts as a precautionary measure to reduce the risk of any additional cases.

PHE has also provided information to remind students and staff of the signs and symptoms of meningococcal infection, which can cause meningitis and septicemia.

Other people in the wider university setting are not considered to be at increased risk of developing meningococcal disease so there is currently no need to take any specific action or change the university routine for students and staff.

Meningococcal bacteria are carried in the back of the throat of about one in ten people at any one time, but only very rarely cause illness. Most people who carry the bacteria become immune to them. The bacteria do not spread easily and only those who have had close prolonged contact with the person, normally family members, or those sharing the same accommodation (such as a shared kitchen/bathroom) are at a slightly greater risk of getting ill.

Fiona Neely, Consultant in Health Protection at Public Health England South West, said: “We understand that there will be concern among students, staff and parents following these cases, and we are following national guidelines in implementing control measures such as eliminating carriage in close contacts to reduce spread of infection.

“It’s important to reassure all concerned that apart from the very close contacts that are being offered antibiotics and vaccination, there is no need for a wider group of students or staff to take antibiotics or be vaccinated.

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“The best advice remains for everyone to be aware of and alert to the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicemia, especially students and their parents.  Early recognition of meningitis and septicemia symptoms can greatly improve the outcome of the disease. If anyone is feeling unusually unwell, and displaying the symptoms of meningitis or septicemia, they should contact their GP surgery immediately or call NHS 111.

“We urge students to look out for your housemates as symptoms of meningitis can look a lot like a hangover – so it’s important to be vigilant for anything out of character. We would also urge students to register with the Students’ Health Service and to take up the offer of the MenACWY vaccine which is available to students as part of the routine vaccination schedule for this age group.”