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Contagious diseases

At university it's quite common for students to come into contact with different illnesses - we've put together some information on some of the more serious contagious (infectious) diseases to help you to be aware and keep healthy. If you think you, or someone you know, has symptoms for any of these diseases, please contact the Student Medical Centre, your GP or the NHS.
If life is in danger, call the Emergency Services on 999.

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The overall risk of Ebola to the general UK population continues to be low. The virus is only transmitted by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person. You cannot catch it through social contact or travelling with someone who is infected.

There have been no cases of Ebola in the UK to date, other than the repatriation of a British Nurse in August 2014. While it is possible that the UK may see cases of imported Ebola, there is minimal risk of it spreading to the general population. Public Health England is working with government and NHS colleagues to ensure that the UK remains alert to, and prepared for, the risk of Ebola. Enhanced screening has been introduced at UK ports, such as Heathrow Airport, to identify and advise passengers coming from high-risk areas. Robust exit screening remains in place at airports in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

Ebola symptoms include fever, weakness, joint and muscle pain, headache and sore throat. However, these symptoms could signal more common illnesses such as flu, meningitis, typhoid fever and malaria. If you feel unwell, please seek medical advice by calling 111.

BU continues to monitor developments; any action required will be notified to us by Public Health England and will be managed via the BU Major Incident Group. Travel advice for staff and students is issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

More information can be found on the NHS website or Government Public Health website.

Influenza (Flu)

During cold weather stay alert to the signs and symptoms of winter infections, viruses and sickness bugs, including the flu - it's important to act quickly if you start to feel unwell.

Flu is a viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes, and more common during winter months. Symptoms include a sudden temperature, headache, general aches and pains, tiredness and a sore throat. These can usually be treated at home with plenty of rest, drinking lots of water and taking paracetamol or ibuprofen.

You can access the NHS website which will help to explain the key symptoms associated with flu and other various common conditions, and the action you should take if you're concerned.

Staff in the Student Medical Centre are on hand to provide support and advice about any of these conditions. Please contact them on 01202 965378.

Measles, Mumps & Rubella (MMR)

Due to recent measles outbreaks in the UK it's important to check that you're up to date with your vaccinations at university.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness. The illness causes a range of symptoms including fever, coughing and distinctive red-brown spots. Symptoms of measles appear 9-11 days after the infection begins, and last up to 14 days. The condition is most infectious after the first symptoms have appeared and before the rash has developed. You can catch measles through direct contact with an infected person, or through the air when they cough or sneeze. The droplets can also survive and remain contagious on surfaces for a few hours. If you suspect that you have measles, please stay away from others for at least four days after the rash appears.

Mumps is a contagious viral infection most recognisable by the painful swellings at the side of the face under the ears. Mumps usually passes without causing serious damage to a person's health. Serious complications are rare, although it can cause deafness and meningitis. Other general symptoms often develop a few days before the glands swell, including: headache, joint pain, feeling sick, dry mouth, mild abdominal pain, feeling tired, loss of appetite, and a high temperature of 38C or above. You can catch mumps through direct contact with an infected person, or through the air when they cough or sneeze. The droplets can also survive and remain contagious on surfaces for a few hours. If you suspect that you have mumps, please stay away from others for at least five days after the swellings appear.

Rubella (German measles) is a mild disease caused by the rubella virus. Symptoms include fever and a distinctive red/pink rash. The rubella virus is passed on through droplets in the air from coughs and sneezes. Rubella is about as infectious as flu. Although rubella is a mild disease, if caught by pregnant women it can cause serious harm to the unborn baby. This is called congenital rubella syndrome. In the first three months of pregnancy this can cause eye problems, deafness, heart abnormalities and brain damage in the unborn baby.

MMR vaccine

The most effective way of preventing measles and mumps is the MMR vaccine (measles-mumps-rubella), which also provides protection against rubella. The success of the MMR vaccine means that, in the UK, cases of measles and mumps are rare. If you're aged 15-25 years you may have missed out on the MMR vaccine when you were younger. If you've not already received the MMR vaccinations contact the Student Medical Centre or your own GP to arrange a vaccination as soon as possible.

If you're worried that you may have the symptoms of measles or mumps, please contact your GP - it's best to phone before your visit as your GP surgery may need to make arrangements to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others. If you're aware of any students who may be concerned or who are displaying the symptoms of measles or mumps, please refer them to the Student Medical Centre (01202 965378) or their local GP.

You can find our more information from the NHS website or read the NHS leaflets about measles or mumps and the MMR vaccine.




Meningitis is an infection of the membranes surrounding and protecting the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by viruses and bacteria, and can also lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning). There are several strains of meningitis; the MenACWY vaccine protects against four strains of the bacterial infection. The vaccination is offered to teenagers and also to first-time college and university students who haven't already had the vaccination:

  • Anyone born on or after September 1 1996 who missed their routine school vaccination in school years 9 and 10 or the catch-up MenACWY vaccination can get the vaccine from their GP up to their 25th birthday
  • Students going to university or college for the first time, including overseas and mature students, who have not yet had the MenACWY vaccine remain eligible up to their 25th birthday.

If you haven’t had the vaccination, or had it as a child and may require a booster, please contact the Student Medical Centre or your GP. The vaccination won’t protect you against other strains of the disease so it's very important to remain vigilant whether you have been vaccinated or not. Early diagnosis and treatment are the best defence against this serious disease. Find out more about about protecting yourself against meningitis and septicaemia on the NHS website, the NHS Men ACWY vaccination leafletFAQs on the Men ACWY vaccine, or watch A Student's Meningitis Story.

Symptoms can include the following - only some of these symptoms may show:

  • severe headache
  • high temperature/fever
  • vomiting
  • stiff neck
  • dislike of bright lights
  • pale, blotchy skin
  • drowsiness/lethargy
  • joint pains
  • cold hands and feet
  • rash of red/purple spots which looks like bruising under the skin.

What to do

If you are worried that you may have the symptoms of bacterial meningitis, or if you think you have observed them in someone else, seek immediate medical advice from the Student Medical Centre on 01202 965378. The Centre is open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday during term time. At all other times you can contact the Talbot Medical Centre on 01202 636400 or NHS 111. If the situation appears to be an emergency, call 999.

More information about meningitis is available from the NHS and the 24-hour national help lines of the meningitis charities:


The Meningitis Aware Recognition Mark has been awarded to BU because of our work to raise awareness of meningitis amongst students and staff, the steps we take to encourage and facilitate student uptake of the Men ACWY vaccine and our preparedness for a case of meningitis on campus. The recognition mark also demonstrates that we meet the recommendations set out for Higher Education institutions by Public Health England.


Norovirus is a very common viral infection causing vomiting and diarrhoea, it's highly contagious, but is usually a mild illness. It's also known as the 'winter vomiting bug', 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, take paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains. Practising good hygeine, as well as staying at home, will prevent the disease from spreading:

  • wash your hands frequently
  • don't share towels and flannels
  • disinfect surfaces that an infected person has touched.

Stay at home – don't go to see your GP, as antibiotics have no effect on Norovirus, the illness just needs to run its course. For more information visit the NHS website.


Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection caused by a bacterium (germ), and usually affects the lungs, but can affect any part of the body.

Tuberculosis (TB) bacteria are usually spread in the air. TB is caught from another person who has an active TB infection of the lungs. The bacteria get into the air when that person coughs or sneezes. You need close and prolonged contact with them to be at risk of being infected.

The main symptoms include:

  • Cough which lasts for more than a month
  • Weight loss
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Blood in spit or sputum (phlegm) at any time.

If you're worried you may have the symptoms of tuberculosis, please contact your GP by phone. If you are aware of any students who may be concerned or who are displaying the symptoms of tuberculosis, please refer them to the Student Medical Centre (01202 965378) or their local GP.

For more information visit the NHS website.

Medical Centre

Medical Centre

The Student Medical Centre on Talbot Campus offers a full range of services including; online advice, booking appointments, vaccinations and out of hours support.