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Teenagers to get vaccine against life-threatening meningitis

Young people aged 14–18 years will be vaccinated to help protect them against a particularly virulent strain of meningitis, the Department of Health in England has announced. 

Meningitis group W (MenW) disease is a rare but potentially life threatening condition affecting children and adults. It is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitides

Following an increase in cases over the past few years, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended that action should be taken to prevent a further rise in cases. In 2009, there were 22 cases of MenW compared with 117 in 2014. 

“We accept JCVI’s advice for an immunisation programme to combat this devastating disease. We are working with NHS England, Public Health England (PHE) and the vaccine manufacturer to develop a plan to tackle the rising number of MenW cases,” says John Watson, deputy chief medical officer for England. 

“MenW is potentially preventable through vaccination with the quadrivalent MenACWY conjugate vaccine,” says PHE. Currently, vaccination is not routine, but is recommended for groups at high risk of infection. 

Meanwhile, PHE is urging all healthcare professionals to be mindful of the symptoms of MenW. Early signs of the disease can include headache, vomiting, muscle pain and fever with cold hands and feet. The classic rash may not develop until later. Early recognition and treatment with antibiotics can be life-saving, says PHE.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20068127

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