Vaccinations and illnesses that require vigilance

Students are more at risk of certain illnesses than the general population, so it is important to have the appropriate vaccinations and remain vigilant for symptoms.

Please check if you have had your key vaccinations and remain vigilant to the symptoms of serious illnesses. Students can be more vulnerable to illness as they are often living closely in student residences and mixing with lots of new people.

You are strongly recommended to have the following vaccinations before starting at UCL:

  • Meningitis - All university students (under 25 years) should be immunised against Meningitis (ACWY). All freshers (1st year undergraduates) are now advised to have a Meningitis (ACWY) booster if they were less than 10 years of age when they received their first Meningitis C injection. Students under 25 years old who have never had any meningitis vaccine (Men C, Men AC, or Men ACWY) are eligible to have Meningitis ACWY vaccine.

  • MMR vaccine - MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles). Before starting higher education students should have two doses.

If you have not had these immunisations Ridgmount Practice can provide them. It is best if this happens within the first two weeks of term to allow time for immunity to develop, so contact Ridgmount Practice as soon as possible upon arrival if you have not had your vaccinations.

Illnesses that require vigilance

Meningitis symptoms

Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. It is very serious, can develop quickly and, in some cases, can be fatal. Viral meningitis is rarely serious and is not helped by antibiotics. Bacterial meningitis is less common than viral meningitis, but is a serious illness and needs urgent treatment with antibiotics.

As the early symptoms of meningitis can disguise themselves as other things, such as common illnesses like flu, or maybe a hangover, it’s easy to mistake meningitis for something else.

A classic symptom of meningitis is a blotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it, but this symptom does not always appear. According to the NHS, further symptoms can include:

  • fever, cold hands and feet
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • drowsiness, difficult to wake up
  • confusion
  • irritability and/or confusion
  • dislike of bright lights
  • severe headache, joint or muscle pains
  • pale, blotchy skin with or without a rash
  • convulsions/seizures
  • stiff neck

These symptoms can appear in any order, and not everyone will get all of them. 

What should I do if I suspect I have meningitis? 

Those experiencing symptoms of meningitis should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Meningitis can potentially be fatal within a matter of hours. If you suspect you may have meningitis, seek urgent medical attention - call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E department.

If you're not sure if it's anything serious or you think you may have been exposed to someone with meningitis, call NHS 111 or your GP surgery for advice.

Mumps symptoms 

Mumps is an acute viral illness in which the salivary parotid glands in the cheek and jaw, swell and become painful. Mumps is highly infectious, however usually occurs in people who have never been or only partially been immunised.

The main symptoms are:

  • fever, headache, tiredness, aching muscles and joints and a reduced appetite lasting several days
  • then swelling and pain of one or both salivary parotid glands lasting 4-8 days. (The parotid glands are found at the side of the face just below the ears and usually cannot be seen or felt.)
  • dry mouth and difficulty or pain on chewing and swallowing.

About a third of people have no symptoms at all.

Mumps is normally a mild illness. However the following complications can sometimes occur:

  • viral meningitis in 1 in 7 cases.
  • encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in 1 in 400 of cases associated with deafness in one or both ears.
  • inflammation of the pancreas, heart and other organs
  • inflammation of the testes (testicles), usually on one side, in 1 in 5 of adolescent or adult males occasionally causing infertility.
  • inflammation of the ovaries 1 in 20 of adolescent or adult females; again, occasionally causing infertility.

What do I do if I think I have mumps?

You should contact your GP and mention that you suspect an infectious illness so they can put you at the end of their appointment list.

Public Health England recommend that anyone with mumps should not go to university or work for the period that they feel unwell and for five days following the onset of swollen glands. Careful handwashing and disposing of tissues is very important.