HC Deb 24 February 1998 vol 307 cc172-3W
Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many young people in higher education have(a) contracted meningitis and (b) died as a result of meningitis, in each of the last five years. [30491]

Ms Jowell

The table gives the number of laboratory reports of meningococcal disease and the number of deaths for ages 15–24; it is not possible to say how many of these cases were in higher education. Total figures for all ages and those for children under 5 are also included for comparison.

Public Health Laboratory Service laboratory reports culture positive (meningitis and septicaemia)
All ages Ages 15–24 Under 5s
Year cases deaths cases deaths cases deaths
1993 1,298 173 191 27 674 51
1994 1,129 149 186 23 587 75
1995 1,459 196 300 47 661 81
1996 1,493 235 336 59 645 82
19971 1,595 243 294 60 704 76
1 Provisional data.

Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much the Government are spending on raising awareness of the risks and symptoms of meningitis among students. [30490]

Ms Jowell

The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) holds an annual press briefing for journalists to raise public, professional and media awareness of meningitis. The CMO also writes to all doctors each year giving advice on the early diagnosis of suspected cases of meningococcal infection and stressing the need for immediate antibiotic treatment and urgent referral to hospital. The Department contributes to the many articles in newspapers and the medical press, and television and radio programmes that appear during the winter increase in cases.

Last year we also revised the Department's information leaflet entitled "Knowing about meningitis and septicaemia" available to the public from general practitioners' surgeries. As meningococcal infections peak with most cases in children under one year, with a second smaller peak in late teenagers we target extra information in these areas. The Health Education Authority (HEA), funded by the Department, produces a leaflet targeted at students, "Look out for your mate", which is distributed to colleges and universities. The Department provides funding to both the National Meningitis Trust and the Meningitis Research Foundation to support their valuable information work.

It is not possible to identify the amount spent on student awareness of meningitis separately, but it is a key theme of the Department's, the HEA's and the meningitis charities' information campaigns. 1.5 million "Look out for your mate" flyers and 35,000 posters were distributed to 765 colleges in England and Wales. 250,000 copies of the Department's "Knowing about meningitis and septicaemia" leaflet were printed last year.