Meningitis and septicaemia

Meningitis and septicaemia are major health risks for young adults.

Although rare, the bacteria can spread rapidly and cause serious illness in otherwise healthy people.

It can spread by coughing, sneezing, kissing and sharing things like cutlery. University students are at higher risk due to living with lots of other students.


Students up to age 25 are eligible for a free MenACWY vaccination (which helps protect you against meningitis and septicaemia). You should get this vaccination as soon as possible, even if you have previously had the Men C vaccination.

Cases of measles and mumps which can cause meningitis have also been rising, Manchester Health Protection Unit strongly advises that you have the MMR vaccinations if you didn’t receive the full course of vaccinations as a child.

If you're not sure if you're fully protected against meningitis, speak with your GP.


  • fever (with or without cold hands and feet);
  • vomiting;
  • muscle pains or a stiff neck;
  • headaches;
  • breathlessness or a fast heartbeat;
  • dislike of bright lights;
  • confusion;
  • chills and a low body temperature.

The first symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell. Limb pain, pale skin, and cold hands and feet often appear earlier than the rash, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and confusion.

For more information, visit the Meningitis Research Foundation website.

The glass test

Someone with septicaemia may develop a few spots or a widespread rash with a fever. Later, the rash can develop into purple blotches that do not fade under pressure.

You can test this by pressing the side of a drinking glass against the rash. If you have a fever and a rash, and the rash does not fade under pressure, get medical help immediately by calling 999 or getting someone to take you to the nearest hospital emergency department.

If you suspect that you or someone else you know has meningitis, seek medical advice immediately. Don’t wait for a rash to develop.