STUDENTS across the south west are being urged to get vaccinated to protect themselves against meningitis and septicaemia.

Leading nurses have called on soon-to-be university students to get the vaccine for group W meningococcal disease (Men W).

Cases of meningitis and blood poisoning caused by a highly virulent strain of Men W bacteria rapidly increased from 22 cases in England in 2009/10 to 210 in 2015/16.

As a result, health officials added the Men ACWY immunisation to the national immunisation programme in August 2015.

Older teenagers and university students are encouraged to get the Men ACWY vaccine to protect themselves against the deadly bacteria.

This group is thought to be at a higher risk of infection because they mix closely with lots of new people - some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria at the back of their noses and throats.

Julie Yates, Screening and Immunisations Lead for PHE South West, said: “The MenACWY vaccination programme will save lives and prevent lifelong and devastating disability.

“We urge anyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Remain vigilant and seek urgent medical help if you or someone you know may be showing signs of infection.”