Scottish students are being urged to make sure they've been vaccinated against meningitis after a rise in cases in recent weeks. 

As the new term begins, the NHS is encouraging anyone under 25-years-old who has not yet had their free meningitis ACWY vaccine to take up the offer.

The vaccine is described by health experts as the best protection against certain causes of the life-threatening infection.  

Read more: What are the symptoms of meningitis and how do you get it?

It comes as Public Health Scotland says there has been a small increase in invasive meningococcal disease, including meningitis, in recent weeks – as is often the case over winter. 

Students who have moved to Scotland from overseas are being told to make sure they are up to date with vaccinations offered for free by NHS Scotland.

Meningitis can be very serious and life threatening if not treated quickly. It is important to be aware of signs and symptoms of meningitis as they can develop suddenly.

You should seek medical advice as soon as possible if you’re concerned that you, your child, or someone you know could have meningitis. 

What is meningitis? How is it spread?

Meningitis is an infection of protective membranes which surround the brain and spinal chord.

If not treated quickly, it can become very serious and cause life-threatening blood poisoning, called septicaemia.  This could lead to permanent damage to the brain or nerves. 

Meningitis is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection, which can be spread through sneezing, coughing, kissing, or sharing items like utensils, cutlery, and toothbrushes. 

Read more: Barely a third of A&E patients seen on time at Glasgow super hospital

Bacterial meningitis is rarer than viral meningitis, but more serious. 

The infection is usually caught from people who carry the virus or bacteria in their nose or throat but aren't ill themselves. 

More information about the signs and symptoms of meningitis can be found at

What are the symptoms of meningitis?

The symptoms of meningitis develop suddenly and, according to the NHS, can include: 

  • A high temperature over 37.5°C (99.5°F) 

  • A headache

  • Being sick 

  • A blotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it 

  • A stiff neck 

  • A dislike of bright lights

  • Drowsiness or unresponsiveness

  • Seizures or fits 

The symptoms can appear in any order, the NHS says, and some may not appear. 

What to do if I think I have meningitis

You should seek medical advice as soon as possible if you think you or your child might have meningitis. 

NHS advice is to trust your instincts and not to wait until a rash develops. Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E if you think you or your child might be seriously ill. 

If you're unsure if it's serious or if you think you might have been exposed to someone with meningitis, call 111 free or your GP practice for advice. 

How to get vaccinated against meningitis

A number of vaccines are available which offer some protection against certain types of meningitis. These include: 

  • Meningitis B vaccine, offered to babies aged 8 weeks, with a second dose at 16 weeks and booster at one year old

  •  6-in-1 vaccine offered to babies at 8,12, and 16 weeks of age

  • Pneumococcal vaccine, offered  to babies at 12 weeks and between 12 and 13 months old

  • Meningitis C vaccine, offered at 12 weeks of age, and one year old

  • MMR vaccine, offered to babies at one year and a second dose at three years and 4 months

  • Meningitis ACWY vaccine, which is offered to teenagers and young people who may have missed the opportunity to be immunised

To found out how to get these vaccines, and see if you may be eligible as a student, visit the NHS Inform website