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    Contagious diseases

    We have put together key information on the most common contagious and infectious diseases to help you keep healthy.

    Staying healthy

    At university it's quite common to come into contact with different illnesses. Infections can spread quickly due to close living arrangements and being part of larger and new social circles.

    You should ensure that you are registered with a General Practitioner (GP) close to your term time address when you begin university and that your vaccinations are up to date. Do not wait until you are unwell. You can find more information on how to register with a GP at the bottom of this page.

    The NHS have some great information on staying well and Public Health England have summarised the key information on a handy fact sheet.

    If you think you have any symptoms, please contact your GP or the NHS. For some infections, you should not attend university, be on the campus or go to other social gatherings until the infection has cleared and you are no longer infectious. Your GP will be able to advise you.

    You can call 111 for urgent but non-emergency advice. If you're on campus and you begin to feel unwell, you can call Security on 020 8411 6200 and ask for a First Aider who will come to your assistance and will call an ambulance for you if required.

    If life is in danger or you are off campus, call an ambulance on 999.

    • Coronavirus/COVID-19

    A coronavirus is a type of virus. Typical symptoms of coronavirus include fever and a cough that may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

    Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

    COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, China in December 2019. We are monitoring the situation and you can find out more on our UniHub announcement page which we are updating regularly.

    Download the COVID-19 fact sheet

    Protecting yourself from COVID-19

    There are some general principles you can follow to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. This is particularly important after taking public transport
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
    • If you feel unwell, stay at home and do not attend work or university campus
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home and work environment
    • Influenza (Flu)

    Flu is a highly infectious respiratory illness caused by various flu viruses that change slightly each year. The illness spreads rapidly from person to person via droplets.

    Symptoms may include headaches, aching muscles and joints, fever, cough, and sore throat.

    If you suspect you have flu and feel unwell, call your GP. They will advise on treatment and how to manage your symptoms.

    It's important that you stay away from campus and avoid mixing with friends and family until you have been symptom free for at least 72 hours.

    Protecting yourself from the Flu

    The seasonal flu vaccination is free of charge each year to the following at-risk groups:

    • People who have asthma and take inhaled steroids
    • People with a serious long-term condition for example kidney, heart or lung disease
    • Pregnant women
    • People aged 65 years and over

    If you are in one of these risk groups, it's important you have the flu vaccine; your GP will be able to advise you. You can also opt to pay for the flu vaccination if you wish to take extra precautions.

    Simple hygiene measures also reduces the spread of viruses.

    • Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)

    Measles, Mumps and Rubella are highly infectious viral illnesses, spread by droplets from the saliva of an infected person.

    Measles can cause fever, coughing and distinctive red-brown spots on the skin. Complications include pneumonia and brain inflammation. Measles can be very serious for pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses or weakened immune systems.

    Mumps can cause headache, fever and swelling of the salivary glands. Complications include swelling of the ovaries or testes. The majority of cases of mumps are young people aged 15 - 24 years.

    Rubella (German measles) can cause rash and swollen glands around the ears and the back of your head. Rubella is usually a mild infectious disease, although it can have serious consequences for the unborn children of pregnant women.

    Protecting yourself from MMR

    To protect yourself against Measles, Mumps and Rubella you should have two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination which provide excellent protection against each disease.

    If you are unsure whether you have the MMR vaccine, book an appointment with your GP.

    Pregnant women who have been in contact with someone who has rubella or measles should contact their GP or midwife for further advice.

    Download the MMR fact sheet

    • Meningitis and invasive meningococcal disease

    Meningitis is an illness causing inflammation of the linings of the brain and spinal cord. Viruses, bacteria and other agents can cause meningitis. This is a serious illness and needs urgent medical treatment.

    The most common cause of meningitis and invasive meningococcal disease is the meningococcus bacteria. Around 20-30% of the population carry the meningococcus bacteria in their nose and throat without knowing it or causing them any harm.

    You can pick up the meningococcus bacteria if you have very close prolonged contact (e.g. living in the same house or mouth kissing) with someone carrying the bacteria.

    Symptoms

    • High temperature (fever) of 38C or above
    • Vomiting
    • Headaches
    • Stiff neck
    • Dislike of bright lights
    • Drowsiness or unresponsiveness
    • Seizures (fits)
    • Blotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it (this doesn’t always develop)

    Not all of these symptoms may be present, but if you suspect you or one of your friends has meningitis then get medical help immediately.

    Protecting yourself from Meningitis

    The Meningitis vaccination (also known as MenACWY) offers some protection against types of meningitis and invasive meningococcal disease.

    The vaccination is offered to teenagers and freshers students attending university for the first time. If you are unsure if you have received this vaccination, contact your GP to arrange an appointment.

    Meningitis Now offers more information.

    • Norovirus

    Norovirus is a very common viral infection causing vomiting and diarrhoea. It's highly contagious meaning that it can easily spread.

    It's also known as the 'winter vomiting bug' as tends to occur during the winter months, however you can catch the virus at any time of the year.

    The incubation period for Norovirus is anything from 24 hours to three days. The onset is sudden and symptoms usually last 12-48 hours.

    Keeping yourself hydrated is key; drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and take paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains.

    Protecting yourself from Norovirus

    Practising good hygiene, as well as staying at home, will prevent the disease from spreading. Make sure you:

    • Wash your hands frequently
    • Don't share towels and flannels
    • Disinfect surfaces that an infected person has touched

    If you have any of these symptoms, make sure to stay at home and not come onto campus. Don't go to see your GP in person because you may pass on the Norovirus infection and antibiotics have no effect on Norovirus - the illness just needs to run its course.

    If you concerned, call your GP or 111 for advice. For more information visit the NHS website.

    • Tuberculosis (TB)

    TB is a disease caused by the mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. It usually affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. TB is only infectious to other people if it affects the lungs or throat.

    Symptoms

    Contact your GP if you are experiencing any of these symptoms:

    • Cough lasting more than three weeks
    • Loss of weight for no obvious reason
    • Fever
    • Heavy night sweats
    • Fatigue - a general and unusual sense of tiredness and being unwell
    • Loss of appetite

    Protecting yourself from TB

    If you have recently arrived in the UK, you may have received TB screening prior to your travel. Even if you were given the all clear, you must contact a GP as soon as possible if you experience these signs and symptoms.

    Early diagnosis and treatment is very important to help ensure you recover quickly. TB is curable with antibiotics; these are usually taken for at least six months.

    You can get more information about TB on the NHS and TB Alert websites.

    Download the TB fact sheet

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