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Uni Students Facing High Meningococcal Risk

Experts are calling on university students to get vaccinated as concerns grow around student susceptibility to meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal is a bacterial infection that can lead to serious illnesses including meningitis and septicaemia.

The Immunisation Advisory Centre says those living in close contact with others are at a higher risk of catching the disease.

The centre specifically mentions those living in crowded conditions such as dormitories and student hostel bunkrooms as being at a higher risk.

AUT told Debate that people living in student residences are made aware of the vaccine and all AUT Student Health Centres have information available.

The meningococcal vaccine is available from GPs and students are encouraged to get vaccinated before moving into the halls.

AUT told Debate several types of meningococcal vaccines are offered at the AUT Student Health Centres.

This includes the A, C, W, Y and B vaccines.

Meningococcal B is the most commonly occurring strain in New Zealand. Students wanting the vaccines will have to cough up money, however, as health boards are not currently offering them for free.

Dawn Teio, a resident at AUT Wellesley Student Apartments told Debate that despite missing her induction, she has still seen signs up that warn of the disease.

Another WSA resident, Sky Lunson, told Debate she has been informed of the risks early on.

“There was an induction so in the induction there was a lot of information about the different vaccines they recommend you get before you move in.”

Dr Helen Petousis-Harris from the University of Auckland says on top of getting the vaccine, the usual principles of infection control still stand.

This includes avoiding sharing saliva and washing hands regularly.

Petousis-Harris also says those who have had the vaccine before still need to check if they need another.

“I think the main thing people do not realise is that anyone who has received a vaccine against meningococcal disease in the past may not be protected now as protection wanes after about five years.”

Three cases of meningococcal disease were reported at the University of Otago in 2018.

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