Students in Greater Manchester are being warned to protect themselves against a new deadly strain of meningitis.
According to UK-based charity Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF), teenagers and young people are more likely to carry the life-threatening meningococcal bacteria – which can also cause septicaemia – than any other age group.
Parents, colleges and universities are being urged to encourage students take advantage of a free vaccine in a bid to stop the bacteria spreading.
From August last year, anyone born between September 1, 1996, and August 31, 2002, and under 25-year-olds going to university for the first time were offered the MenACWY injection to protect them against the new strain, known as ST-11.
According to experts, cases of some types of meningococcal bacteria have reduced to just a handful over the past few years, but those involving the new strain have risen year on year in England and Wales since 2009.
Public Health England figures show almost 200 cases were reported from July 2014 to June 2015 compared to just 98 cases the previous year.
MRF chief executive Vinny Smith said the #StoptheSpread campaign aims to raise awareness within the student population and make sure they are protected against the deadly strain.
He said: “We have been working with secondary schools and universities to ensure they know how vital it is to get this vaccination.
“Adolescents are more likely to carry meningococcal bacteria than any other age group and offering MenACWY vaccine to this age group will stop the bacteria from being passed on to the wider population.
“This means that even unvaccinated people will be protected from catching the disease – an effect known as herd protection.
“Although we welcome the implementation of the MenACWY vaccine amongst 13-18 year olds over the next couple of years, it will take time for herd protection to be established.
“So babies, who are particularly vulnerable to developing disease will remain unprotected.
“Fortunately, the MenB vaccine Bexsero, which has been routinely available for babies since September 2015, has been shown to provide protection against Men W ST-11.”
Students born on or after September 1, 1999 will receive their vaccination via school nursing systems or other local arrangement by late summer 2017.
Older children may be called in for vaccination by their GP.