HAMPSHIRE teenagers are being urged to get vaccinated against a deadly strain of meningitis which can lead to septicaemia.

Cases caused by an aggressive MenW strain are on the rise, with young people off to university particularly at risk, say health experts.

Meningococcal disease can be fatal and many survivors are left with life-changing disabilities, including brain damage and loss of limbs.

The MenACWY vaccine is the best form of protection against these diseases, with a 100 per cent effectiveness rate so far.

The first 18 months of the vaccination programme saw more than 2 million teenagers receive the vaccine, but there are still many more that need it.

All 18-year-olds should be given the vaccine by their GP practice, and those who have missed their vaccination in previous years are also being urged to contact their practice.

Parents across Hampshire are also being reminded to encourage young people going to college or university this autumn to get the jab before they go.

Those who are due to leave school this summer, or aged 17 to 18 and are not in school (born between 1 September 1998 and 31 August 1999) are now eligible.

Anyone who is eligible and has missed vaccination in previous years remains eligible up to their 25th birthday.

Cases of meningitis and septicaemia caused by the strain have been increasing year-on-year in England, from 22 cases in 2009 to 176 cases in 2015. The jab protects against four strains of meningococcal disease, A, C, W and Y.

Clare Simpson, public health screening and immunisation lead for Solent and Hampshire, said: “The MenACWY vaccination programme will save lives and prevent lifelong and devastating disability.

“We have seen a rapid increase in cases across England in recent years and vaccination is the most effective way of protecting against infection.

“Being in confined environments with close contact, such university halls, hostels when travelling, or attending festivals, increase the chances of infection if unprotected.

“Get vaccinated as soon as possible, remain vigilant and seek urgent medical help if you have concerns for yourself or friends.”

Dr Tom Nutt, chief executive at Meningitis Now, said: “It’s vital that young people and their parents are not complacent about the threat of meningitis, and we urge all those eligible for this lifesaving vaccination to arrange to get it today.

“Meningitis can be a devastating disease, killing one in ten and leaving a third of survivors with lifelong after-effects such as hearing loss, epilepsy, limb loss or learning difficulties.

“With teenagers being a high-risk group, we welcome this timely reminder for parents to ensure their loved ones take this easy step to help protect themselves.”