CASES of meningitis and septicaemia are expected to rise over winter, a charity has warned.

According to Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF), first-year university students are one of the groups at highest risk as they are a group most likely to ‘carry’ the meningococcal bacteria.

Even if they don’t become ill they can carry the bacteria home from university at Christmas and spread it to other family members.

On average there are over three times as many cases of the most common cause of bacterial meningitis (meningococcal) in January compared with September.

While babies and young children are most at-risk of meningitis and septicaemia, teenagers and young adults are the next most at-risk group.

The meningococcal bacteria that can cause deadly meningitis and septicaemia are most commonly found living harmlessly in the nose and throats of teenagers and young adults and they can be spread to others.

The vast majority of people who come into contact with the bacteria do not become unwell or develop any symptoms but occasionally the bacteria invade the body and cause serious illness.

The MenACWY vaccination programme was introduced for teenagers and first year university students in 2015 following a rapid rise in a new and particularly deadly type of meningitis - meningococcal W meningitis and septicaemia (MenW). MRF is urging all first year university students to get their MenACWY vaccine if they have not already had it. Most 14 – 20 year olds are also eligible for this free vaccine.