It was a horrible way to mark the end of European Vaccination Week: on 26 April, the University of Surrey in the UK confirmed that one of its students had died of a vaccine-preventable disease.
The first-year physics student, named in the media as John Igboanugo, died while on a trip to Italy with the university’s American football team. Mr Igboanugo is likely to have caught a bacterial infection that causes meningitis B on the university campus.
Two other students have been hospitalised with the disease in an outbreak that has been traced back to late March.
In response, Public Health England has launched a vaccine drive, aiming to reach around 4,200 full-time students living in on-campus accommodation.
The students are being offered the meningitis B vaccine which is part of the UK’s infant immunisation programme but not routinely offered to all adolescents or young adults.
Dr Peter English, consultant in Communicable Disease Control from Public Health England said meningococcal infection is rare and the risk of transmission is relatively low. He said people who have had ‘prolonged, close contact’ with an ill person are at a slightly increased risk of becoming unwell in the following days.
Close friends of those known to have been infected have already been offered antibiotics as a precautionary measure.
‘I would like to reassure other students, teachers, their families and the local community that the risk of catching this infection remains very low, and any higher risk is confined to those being offered the vaccine,’ said Dr English, who is also a member of the Vaccines Today Editorial Board.