STUDENTS returning to college and university are being warned to be alert to the symptoms of meningitis.
Students and teenagers are the second most at risk group from meningitis.
About 30% of the age group carry the organism which transmits the disease.
The Meningitis Trust is urging students to be aware of the signs.
The illness affects the membranes around the spinal cord and brain and can kill in hours.
Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, aversion to bright light, drowsiness, joint pains, vomiting and diarrhoea.
There can also be a red rash, which does not disappear under pressure. This is a sign of septicaemia, blood poisoning caused by meningitis.
The symptoms may not appear altogether and can come in any order.
The disease is spread by droplets going from person to person during coughing, sneezing or kissing.