Parents are being urged to be aware of the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia during the winter.
Young children and teenagers are at the most risk and are not protected against all forms of the disease.
The Meningitis Research Foundation is also urging first-year students to get their MenC booster if they haven’t already done so.
It comes after nationally more than 20 university students have had meningitis since the term began in September and tragically some have died.
Chief executive of Meningitis Research Foundation Chris Head said: “Parents are often unaware just how vulnerable their children are to meningitis – especially young children, teenagers and students. They assume current vaccines offer blanket protection but this isn’t the case. MenB is a good example. For many years it has killed and disabled more young children than any other infection but is still not vaccinated against on the NHS because the licensed vaccine is the subject of protracted price negotiations.
“We are now in the peak period for meningitis and septicaemia so it’s more essential than ever that parents are well informed and have the confidence to seek medical help fast if they fear for their children.”
There has also been a concerning rise in cases due to a new ST11 strain of MenW, which has a higher fatality rate than other forms of the disease. This has prompted the government’s vaccine advisory committee to advocate MenACWY vaccine as the school booster for teenagers in place of MenC.
Meningitis and septicaemia are often mistaken for milder illnesses, such as flu, and in the winter months people are more susceptible because their immune systems can be weakened fighting common infections. Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia can kill and seriously disable a healthy person within hours
Around one in ten people affected will die and a third of survivors will be left with after-effects, some as serious as brain damage, amputations, blindness and hearing loss.
Anyone who would like further information about the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia or have any concerns should visit www.meningitis.org or call the freephone helpline on 080 8800 3344.