Students heading to university this September have been advised to make sure they are vaccinated following a sharp rise in cases of a deadly strain of meningitis.
Public Health England (PHE) say there were 209 cases of meningitis W (MenW) last year, compared to just 22 in 2009. Doctors say school leavers are at particular risk as rates soar, and that teenagers must be vaccinated against the disease.
Troubling figures also show that between 2009 and 2012, MenW caused around four deaths each year, but provisional figures for 2014/15 show 22 deaths linked to MenW.
Health officials are urging people under 25 years of age, particularly those preparing to go to university or college, to get themselves vaccinated.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: "Since 2009, there has been a rapid increase in cases of MenW across England, with students particularly at risk.
"Protecting young people from this potentially deadly disease as they embark upon one of the most important periods of their lives is vitally important. The vaccination will save lives and prevent lifelong devastating disability.
"We are encouraging all eligible 17 and 18-year-olds who have just left school to get vaccinated; particularly those heading to college or university."
The Men ACWY vaccine protects against meningococcal A, C, W and Y diseases. These illnesses can be fatal, and survivors are often left with life-changing disabilities.
The vaccination programme is being delivered to teenagers and first-time students.
PHE said young people going to university or college are particularly at risk of meningitis and septicaemia because they mix with so many other students, some unknowingly carrying the bacteria.
Vinny Smith, chief executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation, said: "By getting this free meningitis vaccine from your GP you're not only protecting yourself from a potentially deadly disease, but also protecting others by stopping the spread.
"It's also vital to watch out for your friends if they're unwell. If people do have meningitis it can be like a very bad hangover that quickly gets worse. It can be deadly so act fast and get medical help."
How to spot meningitis
Meningitis can come on suddenly and progress quickly. Early symptoms of meningitis include:
- Muscle pain
- Cold hands and feet
- A rash of tiny red pinpricks may also develop. You can tell this is a meningitis rash if it doesn't fade under pressure, for instance, when gently pressing a glass against it (the "glass test").
For more information about the Meningitis W vaccine, head to the Public Health England website .