How many Meningitis cases are there at the University of Portsmouth?

There have been two cases of meningococcal disease in students of the University of Portsmouth who live in the same halls of residence in the last three weeks (since the last week of September). These were caused by a group B strain of the meningococcal bacteria (MenB).

Are the students with meningitis expected to make a full recovery?

Both students are recovering well from their illness.

What is Meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease is a rare but serious bacterial infection caused by meningococcal bacteria. People with meningococcal disease can develop meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain), septicaemia (blood poisoning) or both. Young children, teenagers and young adults have a higher risk of meningococcal disease compared to the rest of the population. Meningococcal bacteria belonging to group B (MenB) are responsible for most meningococcal infections in the UK and across Europe.

How contagious is Meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal bacteria are carried in the back of the throat of about one in ten people at any one time, but only very rarely cause illness. Most people who carry the bacteria become immune to them. The bacteria do not spread easily unless there is prolonged, close contact with a carrier of the bacteria.

Who are most affected by MenB?

MenB has been found to be responsible for the majority of Invasive Meningococcal Disease in the UK. Infants and toddlers are most affected by MenB but cases occur in all age groups.

Why is meningococcal disease common among University/College students?

Students are often more susceptible to infections when they go to university/college simply because they have left their home environment and are exposed to new strains of the bacteria often in confined places like halls of residence. Carriage rates of the bacteria is also higher amongst adolescents.

What action is the University of Portsmouth, NHS Portsmouth CCG and Public Health England taking?

A single dose of an antibiotic will be made available for all residents of Catherine House halls of residence. This antibiotic will be administered by nursing staff at Catherine House on Friday 19th October. All relevant Catherine House residents have been communicated with directly about how to receive their antibiotics.

Is it compulsory for the students to take the antibiotics?

Whilst it is not compulsory to take any medication, it is strongly recommended that the residents of Catherine House should take the antibiotic tablet.

I'm not able to get the antibiotic on Friday 19th October, how should I get it?

Residents of Catherine House who have been identified are strongly recommended to attend the session on the 19th. Alternative arrangements will be made for those who are unable to attend on the 19th October but there is a decreasing benefit over time.

Why aren’t you giving the antibiotic to other students who may have come into contact with the two students who have meningitis either at other halls of residence or around campus?

Generally, people have to spend a considerable amount of time in close contact with a case to be at risk of infection. Examples of such close contact are flat sharers and sexual kissing contact. Such contacts of both cases were identified immediately and offered antibiotic prophylaxis. However, as there have been two cases within Catherine House in a short space of time, Public Health England have decided to extend this measure to all residents in the building.

Are there any side effects of the antibiotic?

Side effects from a single tablet of the antibiotic being recommended (Ciprofloxacin) are very rare. The most commonly reported effects are

  • tummy ache, diarrhoea and nausea
  • tiredness and headaches
  • rash and itching
  • facial swelling - very rarely breathing difficulties may occur with the facial swelling. You should seek medical attention urgently if this occurs

Who should I call for advice if I have questions about meningitis?

For more advice visit the websites listed below or if you have a more urgent question call the Meningitis Now helpline 0808 80 10 388 which operates Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Questions can also be posted on their Facebook page which operates as an out of hours service. If someone becomes ill with some of these signs or symptoms, seek medical attention urgently by calling 111 for advice or 999 in an emergency (e.g. unresponsive/ unconscious).

What are the symptoms of meningococcal disease?

Vomiting Vomiting 
Severe HeadacheBruising / rash
Stiff neck Rapid breathing 
Dislike or bright light Joint / muscle pain 
Seizures Cold hands and feet 
Confusion / irriitability Confusion / irritability 
Extreme sleepiness / difficulty walking Extreme sleepiness / difficulty walking 

The early signs can be similar to bad ‘flu symptoms. However, it is important to be watchful and use your instincts in relation to yourself and those around you. We would encourage students to share awareness and care for one another. Don’t assume an illness is a hangover or a touch of flu. Learn the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia and if you think a friend or housemate is ill then check on them regularly and if you are worried seek medical help.

Where can I find further information?

More general information is available at:


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